I get annoyed when controversial issues swirl around in the public arena as empty slogans rather than thoughtful points for discussion. On what values does each side stand? Do the speeches and chants reflect their main concerns or are they shielding some hidden agenda? Does anyone actually listen for any legitimacy in what the other side is saying?
When I listen to the TV or read the news about the ban on same-sex marriages, I don't get a clear message of why people are taking their respective stands. I think those in favor of lifting the ban are not clear on their foundational values and those in favor of keeping the ban don't seem to think much more deeply than, "God is against it." So I turned my students loose on this debate by having half the class argue for lifting the ban and the other 15 students for keeping it in tact. I was impressed by their thougthfulness and their ability to bring to the surface what each side was valuing. Then everyone wrote a paper. I was impressed by the thoughtfulness and clarity of several of them, one of which is shown here.
THREE REASONS TO UPHOLD THE BAN ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE
Donna G. Medley March 2006
Until about twenty years ago, marriage was universally and undisputedly defined and recognized as the legal union of a man and woman. Recently the homosexual community has challenged the banning of two men or two women from participating in the benefits they perceive will come from a legal union. This ban should be upheld because; 1) the legal and tax benefits that homosexuals are seeking can be obtained through other means, 2) homosexual unions provide an environment that is unstable and detrimental to children, and 3) homosexual unions devalue marriage for all, causing less people to marry and disturbing accepted and desirable family structure.
Same-Sex Marriage Isn’t Needed to Provide Legal Benefits
The ban on same-sex marriage should be upheld because the legal rights and benefits can be provided to homosexual partners without the necessity of a marriage certificate. It is not necessary for homosexuals to marry in order experience the vast majority of the legal rights experienced by heterosexual married couples. In most cases planning ahead and filling out some paperwork can address the legal issues.
One argument of homosexuals has been that hospitals denied partners of ill patients the right to visit them in the hospital because they were not family. When this issue was raised during debate over the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, the Family Research Council performed an informal survey of nine hospitals in four states and the District of Columbia. All nine representing administrators agreed that homosexuality had not been a factor in any visitation disputes in their hospitals. Except when a doctor limits visitation due to medical reasons, final authority over who may visit an adult patient rests with that patient.
It is possible that blood relatives of a patient could attempt to exclude the patient’s homosexual partner if the patient is unable to express his wishes due to unconsciousness or mental incapacity. Partners that are concerned about this remote possibility can preclude it by granting to one another a health care proxy and a power of attorney. These legal documents would not only take care of visitation issues but can give the partner the legal right to make important medical decisions if the person in treatment cannot make them himself.
An often-used argument, also in the realm of legal rights, from same-sex marriage activists is that homosexual partners are unable to leave their estates to a partner when they die. Marriage is not required to resolve this issue. Homosexual partners can be joint owners of property such as a home or a car, in which case the survivor would automatically become the owner if the partner dies. The remainder of the estate can be left to whomever and individual chooses simply by executing a will. It is not necessary to change the definition of the social institution of marriage to address inheritance and the other legal issues discussed above.
Another argument in the legal realm from those in favor of lifting the band is Social Security does not provide survivor benefits for homosexual partners. Social Security spousal survivor benefits were designed in response to the non-monetary contribution made to a family by the homemaking and child-rearing activities of a wife and mother, and to ensure that a woman and children would not become destitute if the husband and father were to die. Very few homosexual couples organize their lives in these “traditional” division of labor roles. They are far more likely to consist of two earners, each of whom can be supported by their own personal Social Security pension. Survivor benefits for biological or legally adopted children of homosexual parents are already provided under current law.
Finally those homosexuals that support gay marriage claim that they are denied tax benefits or breaks that are given to married couples. Again these benefits were given largely because married men and women have been proven to provide a better economic and social environment for children. Relatively few gay couples are in need of such benefits because of the obvious inability to procreate. Moreover gay marriage has not been proven to be socially beneficial to children. Tax benefits for same-sex couples are most often not needed and there is no proven information indicating such benefits would be beneficial.
Same-sex Marriage is Detrimental to Children
The ban should be upheld because same-sex marriage is detrimental to children. Children are the ones that will be most hurt by same-sex marriage. Children raised by their married mother and father, experience lower rates of many social problems, including: premarital child bearing; illicit drug use; arrest, health, emotional or behavioral problems; school failure or expulsion. These benefits are then passed on to future generations as well, because children raised by married parents are themselves less likely to cohabit or to divorce as adults. These types of results have been obtained from a myriad of unbiased sources and have gone basically undisputed.
The claim from those who oppose the ban is that same-sex partners provide a home life to children that is equal to those provided by one parent and two parent heterosexual homes. Most same-sex families with children are formed when one partner divorces his or her heterosexual mate and gets custody of the children. Specifically, the American Association of Pediatrics in 2002 stated, "these [same-sex] families closely resemble stepfamilies formed after heterosexual couples divorce…” There are a number of ethical issues with the report as pointed out by the Focus on the Family literature, but the above statement is the most hurtful to the position of the same-sex supporters. 
If children raised in same-sex families look like children raised in step and divorced families as the AAP asserts, this is not a healthy outlook for children. David Popenoe, a peer-revered Rutgers sociologist explains, “Social scientists used to believe that, for positive child outcomes, stepfamilies were preferable to single-parent families. Today, we are not so sure. Stepfamilies typically have an economic advantage, but some recent studies indicate that the children of stepfamilies have as many behavioral and emotional problems as the children of single-parent families, and possibly more. …Stepfamily problems, in short, may be so intractable that the best strategy for dealing with them is to do everything possible to minimize their occurrence.”  A common finding is that stepparents communicate less with and have less emotional involvement with the child. Even of more concern is research indicating that preschool children who live with one biological parent and one stepparent are 40 times more likely to become a victim of abuse than children living with a biological mother and father.
Same-sex proponents point out that heterosexual couples often divorce and form these stepfamilies anyway. Our society recognizes that the divorced or stepparent family is not the ideal, yet many homosexuals want to start families in this manner. Regarding the research done to this point, a lesson can be learned from the studies initiated on the effect of divorce on children in the early 1970’s. The initial feeling was that divorce would be a short “bump in the road” for children. After twenty-five years of study however, the results showed, “divorce is a long-term crisis that was affecting the psychological profile of an entire generation." Same sex marriage should not be legalized without more ethical and prolonged study of how it will affect children.
Same-Sex Unions Devalue Marriage
The ban on homosexual marriage should be upheld because homosexual unions devalue the institution of marriage, causing less people to bother with getting married at all. Allowing homosexuals to marry not only affects the children involved in their marriages as earlier stated, but also by discouraging marriage in general, detrimentally affects the lives of many more children. The Scandinavian countries, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, which legalized homosexual marriages between 1989 and 1994, show what the trend of extending marriage to homosexuals has exacted on family structure. Some examples are:
· Sweden had the lowest marriage rate in recorded history in 1997. Swedes marry less and bear more children out of wedlock than any other industrialized nation.
· 60 percent of first-born children in Denmark have unmarried parents.
· A majority of children in Sweden and Norway are born out of wedlock.
· Throughout Scandinavia, cohabitating couples with children break up at two to three times the rate of married parents.
And what about the homosexuals who demanded “the right to marry?” In Sweden the number of registered same-sex unioins in 2005 was around 1500 (3000 individuals). The census estimates that the homosexual population is around 140,000. This means that only about 2 percent of the Swedish gays and lesbians have entered into registered unions. Marriage no longer seems to be much of a deal to anyone.
Although the statistics do not explain the reason Scandinavian people are marrying less since laws began supporting homosexual unions, there is one strongly supported theory. Homosexual marriage has contributed to the dissolution on marriage, as a significant institution in Scandinavian culture primarily by contributing to the idea that marriage need have nothing to do with having children. Advocates of same-sex marriage claim that by giving homosexuals the freedom to marry, the institution of marriage is strengthened. Scandinavia’s trial run proves this just isn’t the case.
One way to look at all three of the preceding arguments of upholding the ban is to see them in light of a concern for collective society. The security and benefit of society as a whole, particularly of unprotected children, takes precedence over the individual right of a person or in this case two people to do whatever it is that they want to do. It benefits society when tax breaks are given to the people who most need them. It benefits society when children are raised in the most secure and loving environment possible. And it benefits society when the type of family structure that has been most positive to society is maintained. This writer believes that upholding the band will be a long and difficult battle, because ours is a society with a court system that champions the individual’s rights.
Dobson, James. Eleven Arguments against Same-Sex Marriage. Focus on the Family-CitizenLink, 2004. Accessed 2006. Website. Available from http://www.family.org/cforum/extras/a0032429.cfm.
A Look at Scandinavia with an Eye on New Jersey. New Jersey Family Policy Council, 2005. Accessed 2006. Website. Available from http://www.fnpc.org/html/pmpc/njff205.pdf.
Sprigg, Peter. Questions and Answers: What's Wrong with Letting Same-Sex Couples "Marry?" Family Research Council, 2006. Accessed 2006. Website.
Stanton, Glenn. Examining the Research Literature on Outcomes from Same-Sex Parenting. Ankerburg Theological Research Institute, 2004. Accessed 2006. Website. Available from http://www.ankerberg.com/Articles/social-issues/SI0804W2E.htm.
 Peter Sprigg, Questions and Answers: What's Wrong with Letting Same-Sex Couples "Marry?" [website] (Family Research Council, 2006, accessed 2006).
 Dobson, (accessed).
 Sprigg, (accessed).
 Glenn Stanton, Examining the Research Literature on Outcomes from Same-Sex Parenting [website] (Ankerburg Theological Research Institute, 2004, accessed 2006); available from http://www.ankerberg.com/Articles/social-issues/SI0804W2E.htm.