Gay Civil Rights in the USA

Gay Civil Rights in the USA
Relations between people of the same sex have been persecuted in the course of the whole history of the mankind starting from the very dawn of the humanity up to our days. Nevertheless the above-mentioned history of mankind also shows us a consecutive progress in both public opinion and legislation concerning different violations of human rights including rights of same sex couples as well. The questions of moral are always complicated because each person has own inner idea of what moral is and these ideas rarely coincide. The sphere of regulating conflicts and problems including moral issues should be necessarily ruled by the legislation as it is the only effective criterion of some action being permitted or prohibited in such cases.
Public polls show that today still there are more opponents of gay and lesbian unions and their legalization; the ratio of opponents is twice as much as supporters of the idea. However with each year there appear more supporters of the so-called “civil unions” between same sex couples which give the couples part of the rights of a legally married couple. Some of the exalted philosophers said: “A freedom of an individual is unlimited unless it stirs the freedom of another individual”. Modern definitions of what is moral and what is immoral are defined most of all by our inner notions about privacy and rights and not by traditions and public opinion as it used to be before. Thus the legislation is also changing together with the society and its values.
So let`s analyze current situation and legislation on gay rights in the USA. Earlier all states had anti-sodomy laws now the laws against sodomy have been repealed in many states and remained only in 13 states 4 of which being Texas Kansas Oklahoma and Missouri prohibit oral and anal sex between same-sex couples; the other 9 ban consensual sodomy for everyone: Alabama Florida Idaho Louisiana Mississippi North Carolina South Carolina Utah and Virginia. In Vermont there are recognized “civil unions” between same sex couples which give homosexual couples the full benefits and responsibilities of marriage but are separate from legal marriage. There have been made significant steps that led to the increase of recognition of gay civil rights. On June 26 2002 President Bush has signed a bill allowing death benefits to be paid to the domestic partners of firefighters and police officers who die in the line of duty permanently extending a federal death benefit to same-sex couples for the first time.
On June 26 2003 the Supreme Court regarded the case of Lawrence vs Texas and overturned the decision taken 17 years ago that banned gay sex. In the case of Lawrence vs Texas two men John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner were in 1998 each fined $200 and spent a night in jail for a misdemeanor sex charge when police forced their way into their apartment and found them having anal sex. Justice of the Supreme Court Anthony Kennedy wrote: “the men are entitled to respect for their private lives” “in our tradition the State is not omnipresent in our home… Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought belief expression and certain intimate conduct.” [Focus on the Family December 3 2002]. This precedent meant that the Court has made an important step towards liberalization and legalization of gay rights in the USA. This case had also a big impact on the society though the opponents of the idea were objecting to the decision and stating that it was going to undermine family institution in the country and forward the growth of prostitution crime and even incest most people started treating same sex couples and relations more respectfully.
The reaction of the society on the case was immediate and mostly positive. For example in the beginning of August 2003 Wal-Mart the nation`s largest private employer announced that it was going to ban job discrimination based on sexual preferences. Secondly on July 6 The Dallas Morning News began to publish advertising notices of same-sex unions together with the wedding announcements. In two days The Boston Globe publishes an article in favor of gay marriage and compared state laws against it to those that once banned marriage between whites and blacks. “It may be difficult to imagine a time when interracial marriage was considered an abomination by much of society” the newspaper said “… just as some day it will be hard to imagine that gay couples were once ostracized simply for trying to form stable families.”
Public opinion is slowly getting accustomed to the idea of a relationship between people of same sex. Still the Constitution of the USA defines family as a union between man and woman and the essential part of creating a family is having children. In this definition a union between same sex people cannot be legalized and doesn`t correspond with the very idea of a family. But is there really the above-mentioned understanding of a family the most recognized now? In my opinion today a family is mostly understood as a stable union of two people which are interested to be together and support each other. In today`s world the number of unregistered marriages is growing; this means that the situation in the society is changing and within this concept of family the unions between people of same sex are absolutely normal and should be recognized together with other families. The decision of the Supreme Court pushed the public opinion one step further towards accepting the rights of all people for privacy and inviolability of their private life. “The public has looked to the Supreme Court as a source of moral guidance” says Michael Dorf a law professor at Columbia University in New York City. “The court cannot push society beyond where it wants to go but it can give a gentle nudge to a poised social movement.” [USA Today July 18 2003].
Let`s analyze what public opinion polls tell us about the nation`s opinion on gay rights and their legalization. About ½ of the respondents were against legal recognition of gay rights another ¼ of the respondents were accepting legal gay marriage and the rest were voting for civil unions that give gay couples only part of rights of a true family. As for the proposition to submit an amendment to the constitution recognizing gay and lesbian marriages the opinions divided almost fifty-fifty pro and con. Almost 60% of the questioned people thought that the issue of defining marriage between man and woman only was not worth changing the Constitution. In addition to this about 56-62% of people answered that promotion and encouraging the role of traditional marriage should not be the mission of the government.
Almost half of the respondents told that could consider homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle. 32% of people noted that they have become more acceptable to gay and lesbian couples. However only 10% of the respondents thought that legal recognition of gay rights would change the society to better; the more supported opinion was that this legalization is going to change the society to worse (48%) and the rest of people (40%) decided that it will make no significant effect upon the society. [CBS News/New York Times Poll. July 11-15 2004]. It is possible to state that nowadays there is some “cultural revolution” happening to the society. The attitude to what was earlier considered immoral and stamped as immoral by the society is today being reconsidered and the values are changing. These changes answer the democratic understanding of rights and liberty of an individual.
A lot of lives have been broken because of the misuse of sodomy laws and other laws violating the rights of same-sex couples. The majority of people have never thought of the enormous impact of anti-sodomy laws and other similar legislative acts on the life of people with a non-standard sexual orientation. I think that public opinion still remains so conservative because of the lack of information on this question and the ignorance of people concerning such issues. The Court decision was one of the landmarks that marked the growing public acceptance of homosexual couples.
The victims of the anti-homosexual laws rarely showed themselves and wanted compensation most often these people didn`t dare to note that their rights were violated and in my opinion when people realize better that anti-homosexual laws are a direct invasion into private life and liberty of an individual the public opinion is going to become more open to homosexual couples. “The court will be ready to recognize marriage for gay people when the general public believes that the union of two gay people is morally similar to the union of two heterosexual people” says Chai Feldblum a Georgetown University law professor and an advocate for gay civil rights. “And I think we`re closer to that than I would have anticipated five years ago” [Joan Biskupic. Court`s opinion on gay rights reflects trends. USA TODAY 17 July 2003]
Anti-homosexual laws and amendments actually make homosexual people separate in their rights from others which is in fact a violation of the main statement of the constitution that “all people are equal in their rights”. The above-mentioned decision of the Supreme Court concerning Lawrence vs Texas reflected the changes of public opinion towards this issue. In different times there have been different definitions of what is moral and what is not. Together with the changes in political and economical system the public opinion and social values have been also changing and this process is taking place nowadays as well. In my opinion infringement of anyone`s private rights such as liberty and personal immunity privacy of personal life etc. is against modern understanding of freedom and democracy it is a direct offence against human essence and should be abolished. The question about adoption of children by homosexual couples is a bit more difficult because if homosexual relationship depends on the choice of the consentient partners a child doesn`t choose his parents and the situation with public opinion could affect the child much more than his foster parents.
The steps made by the legislation towards adoption of children by homosexual couples: 19 states allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt children in a complex and expensive two-step process in which one parent first adopts and then the second can petition for joint rights. In my opinion it is better for a child to be raised by a homosexual couple that lives in peace and happiness than by a standard family consisting and man and woman whose life is unhappy and scandalous; but all the above-said can be true only if the public opinion fully recognizes homosexual couples and admits their right to create a family. Nowadays the definition of a family is getting broader and in my opinion the acceptance of homosexual couples is a matter of near future. Today homosexual rights` activists vote for the following rights to be obtained:• Protection against discrimination in employment housing and immigration.• An expansion of hate crime laws to specifically include sexual orientation.• Domestic partner benefits similar to those granted to married couples.• The right to marry or have their relationships recognized in “civil unions.”• The ability to serve in the military without hiding their sexuality.There are federal rights not covered by recognition of civil unions the major of them being the following:1. Immigration rights: a homosexual partner cannot have a non-U.S. spouse become a full citizen.2. Social Security: a homosexual partner cannot collect benefits upon death of a spouse.3. A homosexual partner cannot file federal taxes jointly as a married couple
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In my opinion during its further development the society and state will fully recognize the rights of homosexual couples and treat them as any other minorities without violating any of their basic rights. On the other hand the state should not act in this process as a leader because the family institution has been developing during the whole history of the mankind and its changes should be answering only to the demands of time and époque.


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