The lack of legal recognition for same-sex couples leaves them more vulnerable to personal and financial disasters, such as the inability to be with a partner and make decisions during a medical emergency, the ability to keep a house that has been shared for many years when one partner dies, and access to health insurance. It also leaves any children they might have extremely vulnerable.
It is a simple fact that there are many children growing up with gay parents. It is strongly in their best interest – and in society’s interest – to give those children the protection and stability that can only be afforded by the legal recognition of their family that marriage affords. When families are not allowed to establish legal relationships between a child and both parents, the results can be devastating when, for example, one parent dies. Families can be broken up and children separated from parents because of the lack of legal recognition. Even people who are personally opposed to gay relationships should understand that punishing children in such families makes no sense.
In addition, it is important to note that the law has never made having children a requirement for people to enjoy the legal rights and responsibilities that come with marriage. Many heterosexual couples are unable to – or choose not to – have children, and that does not affect the legal status of their marriage. The legal protections provided by marriage are important to couples whether or not they have children.
The notion that heterosexual marriages must be “protected” from committed gay couples seeking to get married is absurd. There are many pressures that couples and families face. When people think about threats to marriage, they usually are thinking about infidelity, problems with alcohol or drug abuse, economic pressures, and the difficulties of finding family time with two hard-working parents. Allowing committed same-sex couples to enter into the mutual obligations and responsibilities of marriage doesn’t do anything to harm couples that are already married or those who want to marry in the future. This argument just doesn’t make sense.
In addition, marriage has not always been the institution we know today. It has changed dramatically over the centuries. In many cases, women were treated as property being transferred from father to husband. In this country, married women used to have few legal rights. And until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1967 that such laws were unconstitutional, many states made it a criminal offense for interracial couples to marry. Social and religious views on same-sex relationships and on marriage itself are diverse and evolving. It would be wrong to use the Constitution to slam the door shut on individuals working to move public opinion and public institutions in the direction of full equality.