One such right, considered inalienably natural in this country, is the right to marry the person one loves. Homosexuals are excluded by legal code from this right, but they should not be: Homosexuals should be allowed to marry other same sex individuals and gain the benefits of marriage that heterosexual couples enjoy.
As of May 2012, 39 of the United States have banned same-sex marriage. North Carolina voters, the state in which I myself live, has just recently voted to be among this number (Stark). Only 6 (9 as of November 2012) of the 50 United States allow full legal marriage rights to same-sex couples, and globally, out of the 196 countries in the world, only 11 allow same-sex marriage (Stark). Unfortunately, denial of marriage rights is not the only oppression that homosexual individuals face. Just recently a video of a pastor in North Carolina has surfaced with his comments about the good ole days where homosexuals were hung from a white oak tree (Murray and Caulfield). The gravity of the discriminatory nature of our society is not unfelt by the homosexual community as indicated by the suicide rate among homosexual teens: A rate that is five times higher than heterosexual teens (Hatzenbuehler 896). Additionally this rate seems to correspond to the amount of social objections faced in the homosexual teen's environment (Hatzenbuehler 896). Elimination of these objections, such as it being illegal for same-sex couples to marry, should go far in reducing homosexual teen suicide. This is one of the reasons I believe it is important for societies to carefully re-consider same-sex marriage.
The proposition that same-sex marriage should be allowed seems obvious to me; homosexuals deserve the same benefits that heterosexual couples enjoy. This is not so obvious to others though. Some believe that homosexual behavior is unnatural and subscribe to the "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" ideology. I would assert that this is incorrect. Homosexual behavior is indeed found in nature, and therefore must be natural. In fact, over 1500 species have been observed displaying homosexual behavior (News Medical). Additionally, when sexual orientation is found in nature, it is not always strictly homosexual or heterosexual. Instead sexual orientation, like gender, exist on a continuum that can be either, or, or anything in between (Welch 129). Some species even have the ability to change their biological sex (NYTimes). This idea then, that homosexual behavior is unnatural is ignorant of facts all around the world where a living continuum exists and everything is not black and white.
Lending credence to the idea that homosexual behavior may have innate biological roots is a study conducted by Simon LeVay in 1991 (Welch 131). LeVay took 41 cadavers, 19 of which were known male homosexuals, and compared a part of their hypothalamus, called the INAH 3, with the other 22 heterosexual males. The results showed that this particular part of the hypothalamus, in homosexual males, was smaller than heterosexual males. Furthermore, the size of the homosexual male INAH 3 was on average the same size as heterosexual females (Welch 131). Of course, as previously mentioned, this is indicative of the potential innate nature of sexual orientation.
Critics of LeVay's study, and in fact LeVay himself, point out a few potential flaws in the study. For example, all 41 cadavers died from AID's complications. Both Critics and LeVay point out that the medication used to treat AID's can affect the size of the hypothalamus (Welch 132). In conclusion, critics diminish the results and question if this study can be used to conclude sexual orientation brain differences. This, however, in my opinion, does not negate the fact that within the 41 samples, all of whom were treated with AIDs medication, there were stark differences between the homosexual and heterosexual INAH 3. Additionally, later research has shown that these hypothalamus differences may exist across various species. Rams, for example, one of the 1500 afore mentioned species observed displaying homosexual behavior, also have differences in their hypothalamus that are divided along heterosexual and homosexual lines (Welch 132).
Genetics also offer insight into sexual orientation. Studies beginning as early as 1952 with identical and fraternal twins have shown that sexual orientation must have genetic influences (Welch 132). For example around 50% of male and female individuals with an identical twin who is homosexual are also homosexual. Fraternal twins, both male and female, are less than 25% likely to be homosexual if their twin is homosexual. Since identical twins share 100% of the same DNA, and fraternal twins only about 50%, this indicates that genetics is a strong factor in sexual orientation (Welch 132). This assumption then, that homosexual behavior is unnatural, given all the evidence to the contrary, is absolutely absurd!
Another assumption made by those who oppose same-sex marriage asserts that children living with homosexual coupled parents cannot gain the skills necessary to deal with our current society. A study published in 2010 by the journal "Pediatrics" refutes this assumption by following 154 lesbian mothers and their children to ultimately find out how children of lesbian mothers did on social and academic scales (Gartrell and Bos 28). According to this study, it turns out that 17 year olds, both male and female, tended to score higher academically, and did better socially than a normative American youth sample (Gartrell and Bos 28). Advocates, then, of banning same-sex marriage can no longer say that children raised by lesbian couples are in danger of developing abnormally; the fact is they may actually do a little better than the average American child. I suspect this has a lot to do with the fact that they must face the true bigoted nature of the world and challenge their own preconceptions early on.
If homosexuality is found in nature, and studies suggest that homosexual couples can raise well-adjusted children, why does most of the world forbid same-sex marriage? While pondering this question my first thought was religion. Abrahamic religions, for example, which derive their beliefs from the Torah, are bombarded with ideology that homosexuals are an abomination to God. Religion, however, has a history of holding back progress. Women, for example, were not allowed to vote early in our countries history partly because of the Bible's gender inequality. Catholics also put Galileo under house arrest because his idea of a heliocentric universe interfered with their idea that the Earth was the center of the universe. He remained under house arrest for the rest of his life. I have also heard a sermon or two which suggested African Americans were cursed by God through Cain when Cain murdered his brother Abel. Religion has been used to assert all kinds of bigoted ideas such as these. The same-sex marriage issue is just another in a long list of atrocities advocated by religious ideology.
Religion, however, cannot fully explain why homophobia and homosexual discrimination is so pervasive through the entire world. Sure, religion plays a part in reproducing this inequity, but there must be something systemic underlying this type of bigotry found in the world as it is found in nearly all religions and countries. While considering exactly what this systemic issue might be, I remembered an idea I've read about a few years ago called the monkeysphere. The monkysphere, also called Dunbar's number after the scientist who discovered it, is a number that represents how many individuals on average comprises a primate species group size. This monkysphere was discovered while comparing various primate species neocortex size with their group size. It turns out that one can accurately predict the average social group size of a primate species by the volume of their neocortex (The Ultimate Brain Teaser 3). Chimps, for example, might live in groups of about 80 whereas humans, having a larger neocortex, have an average group limit of about 150 (The Ultimate Brain Teaser 3).
Exactly what, you may ask, does that monkeysphere have to do with homosexuals being allowed to marry? The answer is this: At the most basic level we have a limit on the number of people we can conceptualize. Those within that group and number we consider "we." Those outside that group and number we quickly label as "them." Most people do not care about them, will talk about them, and make snide remarks about them as they walk away, whereas if it were a member of our group we treat that member with more respect. Homosexuals, being a minority, and many other minority groups, have a far bigger chance of being outside our monkeysphere, and therefore, are not conceptualized as individuals just like us. As a result their voices and concerns are too often drowned out amongst the opinions of the many.
We cannot let our limitations, such as our inability to conceptualize those outside our group, get in the way of social progress. I would assert that it is exactly the limitation defined as the monkeysphere that is at the core of discrimination against homosexuals and other kinds of bigotry. Educating the population about these possible limitations, along with demystifying the truth about sexual orientation by presenting the observational, biological, and genetic facts mentioned in this essay, should go a long way toward correcting ill-conceived assumptions that homosexuality is unnatural. Presenting the studies that show homosexual couples can raise children that are as adjusted, or better adjusted, than the normative American child, would further promote the demystification of sexual orientation. For all these reasons, biological, genetic, and observational, homosexuals should be allowed the legal benefits of Marriage.
Gartrell, Nanette and Henny Bos. "US National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-Year-Old Adolescents." Pediatrics (2010): 28-36. Print.
Hatzenbuehler, Mark. "The Social Environment and Suicide Attempts in." Pediatrics (2011): 896-902. Print.
Murray, Rheana and Philip Caulfield. Gay-bashing pastor talked 'hanging' homosexuals. 23 May 2012. Web. 1 November 2012. .
News Medical. 1,500 Animal Species Practice Homosexuality. 23 October 2006. .
NYTimes. Sex Change in Fish Found Common. 4 December 1984. .
Stark, Caitlin. By the numbers: Same-sex marriage. 12 May 2012. Web. 1 November 2012. .
"The Ultimate Brain Teaser." Research Intelligence (2003): 3. Web. .
Welch, Kelly. Think Human Sexuality. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2011. Print.