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Same Sex Marriage

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Same-sex marriage has been one of the most talked about, argued about, and litigated cultural and social issues of the recent decade in the United States. It is hotly debated among people in all political, religious, and cultural groups whether same-sex marriage is ethical. California first encountered a rush of requests for same sex couples to obtain marriage licenses in the 1970's. By the 1980's the courts starting getting cases of homosexual couples that were challenging laws against them getting married. Both the national Congress and numerous state legislatures began to entertain bills on one side or the other of the debate, and the public, of course, starting lining up. Even in the gay community, there were different viewpoints. Although it may seem incongruous with the current trend, many in the gay and lesbian communities were not in favor of marriage.

One of the most well-known court cases in advancing the cause of same-sex marriage was in Hawaii in 1991. Three same-sex couples sued the state of Hawaii for refusing to issue them marriage licenses, claiming that the refusal violated Hawaii's state Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) barring discrimination on the basis of sex. In May 1993, for the first time in U.S. legal history, the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in favor of lesbian and gay marriage. Anti-gay groups and political leaders feared that lesbians and gays would flock to Hawaii to marry. They furiously worked to change the constitutional mandate providing interstate recognition of marriage whereby each state must recognize and honor a marriage license granted in any other state. The biggest blow to the gay and lesbian community came with the passage of the Federal government's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, which defined marriage for federal purposes as a legal union between one man and one woman, and permitted states to ignore out-of-state gay and lesbian marriages, despite constitutional law that ruled otherwise. Activists planned to challenge DOMA.

Soon after that, more than 30 states passed laws against same-sex marriage, saying marriage had to be between a man and a woman only. These laws were different than the earlier laws because they not only forbid gays and lesbians to marry, but did not recognize same-sex marriages from other states. No matter which side of the argument any one individual, state, or religious body expouses, the issue is one of major significance for legal and civil rights in the United States.

Why do gay people want the right to marry? They say repeatedly it is for many of the same reasons straight people want to marry. It's an expression of love and commitment between two consenting adults who have decided they want to spend their lives together. But, there are numerous practical benefits as well. Straight married couples enjoy legal rights that are not currently accessible to gay couples. These include parental rights, property rights



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