You Decide

Produced by KQED

photo montage: two wedding cake figurine brides, wedding rings, marriage certificateImage CreditShould gays be allowed to marry?

By Malcolm Gay

Think you know where you stand?

Marriage, that most fundamental of social contracts, has seen better days. Depending on whom you talk to, currently between 40 and 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. Almost four out of every ten children are born out of wedlock, and less than 62 percent of all married women (and less than 65 percent of all married men) describe their unions as “very happy.”

Yet marriage remains a potent symbol of the quality and depth of a couple’s relationship. So much so, in fact, that within minutes of the California Supreme Court’s May 2008 decision to strike down the state’s same-sex marriage ban, gay couples and their supporters could be seen celebrating outside the San Francisco courthouse. Meanwhile and with equal speed, opponents of same-sex marriage began campaigning for a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex unions.

For many who oppose gay marriage, it comes down to a simple matter of belief: The Bible states unequivocally that homosexuality is variously an “abomination,” “unnatural” and even punishable by death. How, then, they argue, can we sanctify such a relationship? In this view, the child-producing marriage between a man and a woman is the bedrock of our culture. It has a stabilizing effect on society, and expanding our definition of marriage to include homosexuality would endanger that stability. Many also argue that if gays are allowed to marry, and the institution’s emphasis shifts from procreation to legality, it won’t be long before people in other romantic configurations—bigamists, polygamists, etc.—are clamoring for equal sanction.

Supporters of same-sex marriage, on the other hand, see the issue through a lens of civil rights. After all, there are more than 1,100 laws in which marital status is a factor, and they argue that to deny gays these rights and benefits without due process is to trample upon their 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law. What’s more, many same-sex marriage proponents argue that far from having a destabilizing effect, allowing gays to marry would actually promote family life. And as for the Bible? Many Biblical scholars maintain that the good book is not nearly so censorious of homosexuality as gay marriage opponents claim. Finally, they argue that the very nature of marriage has changed through the years, and to legalize gay marriage is, at this point, to allow the institution to better reflect and serve the current culture.

Think you know where you stand on this issue? During the course of this activity, we will ask you four times: Should gays be allowed to marry? Based on your responses, we will argue the opposite point of view. Only your final vote will count toward the results of this poll.

Should gays be allowed to marry?

Nothing about the issues facing the candidates and American voters in 2008 is black and white. With these You Decide activities, you can explore both sides of an issue, put your own critical thinking to work, and discuss the pros and cons with others. In the end, perhaps you will ask different — and better — questions than those presented here.


Resources and credits

Funded by Corporation for Public Broadcasting