Ever since the breaking of the American colonies from Britain to form it's own nation, there have always been differences in opinion on what rights are entitled and to whom. In the writing of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson included the following: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” This phrase was, at the time, meant to only include the white male population in these “unalienable rights,” but as the country has developed, it has come to include men and women of all races and classes. Analysis of these rights have aided in gaining suffrage for non-whites and women, ending slavery, and the most recent concentration in civil rights battles, marriage equality. The connotative definition of “marriage” is still evolving in America and will continue to evolve as long as there are citizens being denied their “pursuit of happiness.”
The first facet of marriage equality to be confronted in America is that of interracial marriages. Dating as far back as 1664, there were laws passed against interracial marriages, some going as far as to say that white women who married black men were to be enslaved. There were even three attempts at a Constitutional amendment to ban interracial marriages (Head). During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Asian immigration to the U.S. was a problem to many people. Many states banned marriages between whites and nonwhites, and some federal laws even revoked the citizenship of American women who married Asian men specifically (Sueyoshi). Through a series of Supreme Court cases over the years, state governments finally began accepting and recognizing interracial marriages, although the last state, Alabama, did not legalize them until 2007. Even though interracial marriages are legalized now, studies show that interracial marriages between blacks and majority group members face “higher social sanctions” than other interracial marriages (Yancey).
Many of the concerns with the legalization of gay and lesbian marriages are rooted in religion. Many opposing parties claim that homosexuality goes against the Bible and threatens the “Holy sanction of marriage.” Arguments against these claims include the fact that there is supposed to be a separation of Church and State, and also that the Bible was written long ago and the world has evolved from the way it was back then. The history of homosexuality is relatively short in the United States, although unions between people of the same sex date back thousands of years. The development of large gay communities in New York, L.A., and San Francisco can be contributed to World War I. After the war, all gay and lesbian military personnel were dishonorably discharged and dropped off in port cities such as these. Since then, there have been countless attempts for gays to obtain marriage licenses, all of which were unsuccessful or later withdrawn (Ford). The first same-sex couple to be legally married in the United States was not married until 2004. Generally, the presence of homosexuality has become a regular part of our culture, with television shows such as Sex and the City, Glee, and Degrassi not only integrating but celebrating gay couples. There are still battles being fought to legalize gay marriage, with only 17 out of 50 states already legalized, but because it is such a hot social topic, there are likely to be more victories for the LGBT community in the near future (Infographic).
The final topic to observe in analyzing the reach of marriage equality is polygamy, the marriage of multiple partners. Polygamy has been present throughout history, and has been criticized often in modern culture, especially by Christians. Not all countries outlaw polygamous relationships, but in America, it is illegal in all 50 states. Within polygamy, there are 3 different sects. First is polygyny, in which one husband has many wives. Next is polyandry, in which one wife takes on many husbands. Finally, there are group marriages, in which one family unit has multiple husbands and wives (Polygamy.com). Although it is common in the U.S. to frown upon these unions, pop culture is becoming interested in the process and those involved. A popular television show, Sister Wives, follows the lives of a family that practices polygyny, the Browns. Despite the unlawfulness of their family union, the Browns claim that it is legal because only the first marriage is official and the rest are simply commitments. Many who oppose polygamy are seeking to prove that these “commitments” can be identified as common law marriages and prosecute the family. In light of all of this, though, many people have grown to realize that they simply wish to lead their own lives and aren't doing anything to harm others. Much of the “bad name” for polygamy in America comes from the reputation of groups like the FDLS. As is being documented in the upcoming television series Breaking the Faith, the FDLS practices polygyny, some cases of which men will have upwards of 60 wives. These marriages are arranged as soon as the young women are of “marrying age.” The FDLS community is also known for child molestation and sexual assault, with it's former leader being prosecuted and serving time in prison (Wikipedia). Despite these two vastly opposing views on polygamy, it is undoubtable that in the future, there will be pushes to legalize the practice in America.
There are positives and negatives to all types of relationships; gay, straight, interratial, polygamous, or even “traditional.” The thought of something outside the perceived “norm” simply heightens the negatives more than the positives. All types of relationships have the possibility of abuse or sexual assault, but since we see domestic violence on a fairly regular basis in the news, it highlights the drama if there is the added factor of interraciality, polygamy, or homosexuality in the relationship. Yet as time has passed, interracial marriage is now completely legal in the United States, and gay marriage is on it's way to a national legalization. Eventually more and more cases about polygamy will appear in courts, and it is very possible that in the future, there will finally be a true sense of “marriage equality” in the United States.
- Yancey, George. "Experiencing Racism: Differences In The Experiences Of Whites Married To Blacks And Non-Black Racial Minorities." Journal Of Comparative Family Studies 38.2 (2007): 197-213. Academic Search Complete. Web. 23 Nov. 2013.
- SUEYOSHI, AMY. "Intimate Inequalities: Interracial Affection ∣ And Same-Sex Love In The "Heterosexual" Life Of Yone Noguchi, 1897-1909." Journal Of American Ethnic History 29.4 (2010): 22-44. Academic Search Complete. Web. 23 Nov. 2013.
- Head, Tom. "Interracial Marriage Laws: A Short Timeline History." About.com. N.p.. Web. 23 Nov 2013. <http://civilliberty.about.com/od/raceequalopportunity/tp/Interracial- Marriage-Laws-History-Timeline.htm>.
- Ford, Milt. "A Brief History of Homosexuality in America."Grand Valley State University. N.p., 14 May 2013. Web. 25 Nov 2013. <http://www.gvsu.edu/allies/a-brief-history-of- homosexuality-in-america-30.htm>.
- History Of Gay Marriage In The United States (INFOGRAPHIC). 2013. Infographic. Huffington PostWeb. 25 Nov 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/15/history-of-gay- marriage_n_3599110.html>.
- "What is Polygamy?." Polygamy.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Nov 2013. <http://www.polygamy.com/>.
- "Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." Wikipedia. N.p.. Web. 25 Nov 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalist_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter- Day_Saints>.