Each individual’s journey through life is unique. Some will make the journey alone, others in loving relationships-maybe in marriage or other forms of commitment. We need to consider our own choices and try to understand the choices of others. Love has many shapes, forms, and colors, yet many people have a hard time coming to that realization. On November 18, 2003, Massachusetts’ highest court declared that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage, becoming the first nation to declare this. Many people, both in favor of and against this decision, were interviewed and spoke out as to why they feel how they feel. The real question this article poses is, should same-sex couples have the same rights to marriage as opposite-sex couples? There are many different viewpoints and theories related to this ethical dilemma, which include egoists, social contract theory (Thomas Hobbes), consequentialist and utilitarian beliefs, Immanuel Kant and deontological ethics, and virtue ethics. Each viewpoint and system of belief differs from another, yet they all make very strong, convincing points.
Egoists only do what would be in their own best interest to do. They believe that by acting selfishly, one creates a better world. Based on these and many other beliefs of theirs, they would be absolutely one hundred percent against same-sex marriages. Same-sex marriages only really benefit those individuals getting married so there is no rational reasoning as to why egoists would support this decision and they don’t. It is no direct benefit to society or anybody else involved and therefore egoists would not be in favor of this. They are not gaining anything by this Massachusetts’ highest court decision. Also, this court aided gays and lesbians in many ways. They are making a statement to the world, really, that same-sex couples have the same rights and opportunities as opposite-sex couples by passing this law.
Egoists would be one hundred percent against this because they believe that altruism, unselfish concern for others, is bad and demeaning. They feel that the state of Massachusetts has lessened homosexuals and placed these individuals at the mercy of society by helping them out and this is a huge wrong-doing according to egoists. Everyone should control their own selves and do things for only themselves and no one else. By helping out others, one is not only demeaning them, but also taking the risk that what they’re doing for them could be done wrong. There are no reasons as to why an egoist would ever be in favor of this Massachusetts decision.
Another strong ethical belief is one by a very famous and well known social contract theorist, Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes would be in favor of this recent same-sex marriage decision. He came up with the idea of a social contract theory and this theory involves the idea that all people are equal. If all people are equal, then everyone, regardless of their age, race, culture, or sexual preference, should be permitted to take advantage of the all of their constitutional rights, including the right to marriage.
Hobbes also believed that people couldn’t be trusted to peacefully co-exist with one another without a government. With no form of government everyone would be living in the “state of nature” and life in the state of nature is nasty, brutish, and short. The Massachusetts government made the decision to legalize same-sex marriages. They became involved and made a drastic change in today’s society in a further attempt to make everyone equal. Hobbes would love to see more drastic decisions like these being made every day.
A third extremely valued ethical belief comes from those of consequentialists and utilitarians. Two famous and well known consequentialists are Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mills. When it comes to homosexuality, they believe that it is happiness or pleasure and unhappiness or displeasure alone that determines the morality of it. The sexual practice or relation that has better consequences than other possibilities is preferred and any practice in which the bad consequences outweigh the good ones would be “morally problematic”. According to these beliefs, it is hard to say whether or not consequentialists would be in favor of this decision by Massachusetts or not. If these people believe that one should always choose the act that does the greatest good or least amount of harm, for the greatest number of people then I would have to say they’re in favor of the decision.
By looking at only the outcomes of this case, it was clearly a decision that is causing much happiness throughout the world. Of course there are many anti-gay organizations outraged and speaking out about this decision but when looking at the entire picture, there must be more gay people and straight people having no problems with gays than there are people completely against homosexuals. Therefore, this new law is doing good for more people than bad and that, in regard to consequentialists, is all that really matters.
Immanuel Kant and his beliefs are still very much discussed and thought about today. Kant believed that it was one’s intentions that mattered when doing an act, not their outcomes. In regard to this case, Kant would absolutely be in favor of the decision made by the Massachusetts highest court on November 18, 2003. He once said himself that the only thing totally and completely good without exception is good will. When creating the idea for this new law, I’m sure everyone involved had one thought in mind-homosexuals should not and will not be discriminated against anymore in the marriage process. Their intent was to help gay and lesbian couples overcome the obstacles they had faced for years and years in regard to marriage discrimination. These people wanted to help same-sex couples own the same rights to marriage as heterosexual couples-they wanted to provide them with equal treatment which is already guaranteed to them under the U.S. Constitution.
This is, no question about it, good will. The desire to want to end discrimination and prejudice because of one’s sexual preference is an effort to help homosexuals and there are no bad intentions involved at all. Kant also came up with the idea of a categorical imperative, a test given to all for deciding when we should do an act. By applying this decision universally it would do much more good than harm. By allowing same-sex marriages in every state and every country, it would, very quickly, become something natural and discrimination would decrease dramatically. Also, in regard to the categorical imperative, by treating gays and lesbians as an end and not a means, there is equality. No one is being looked down upon and that is a huge accomplishment.
The final ethical belief being discussed is ancient virtue ethics. People who follow these beliefs feel that it is one’s character that matters and not moral rules and that everyone should find harmony and balance. According to these very simplified ways of living, people who believe in ancient virtue ethics would have no problem with same-sex marriages. If two people are happy together and want to get married, they should, regardless if it’s a man and a woman, two men, or two women. If it truly is a person’s character that matters, then there is no reason to deny them of any rights as long as they are a good person. Many might believe that same-sex marriage is morally wrong, however if moral rules don’t matter in this belief system, then there would be no problem with two homosexuals getting married. Basically, if the two in love are kind, good-hearted people, they should be given the same rights as everybody else and sexual preference should never be a factor. If they are selfless, courageous, kind, thoughtful, polite, benevolent, honest, and loyal, they are deserving of all rights, for these are the virtues of every decent human being.
I, personally, put a lot of thought into this issue before sitting down and writing about it and I tried to determine exactly how I feel about same-sex marriages. To be completely honest, it does freak me out to a certain extent but in all, I think that denying gays and lesbians the right to marry is wrong. Marriage, to me, is the basic concept of two people who are deeply in love, wanting to spend the rest of their lives together. That definition doesn’t exclude homosexuals because I really do feel that a woman can love a woman as much as a man can and a man can love another man as much as a woman can love a man.
Everybody should choose a lifestyle that will provide them with the greatest amount of happiness possible because happiness is, I feel, the key to life. I suppose my reasoning and my beliefs are most closely related to those of consequentialists. Although I don’t feel one should do the act with the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people, I do feel that happiness should be the standard of utility and the happier each individual is, the happier the world will be.
The law passed by Massachusetts’ highest court on November 18, 2003 has definitely stirred a lot of controversy and disagreement. There are many different views and aspects as to why certain people feel the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts is an excellent change and why others feel it was a horrible decision. There is no right or wrong belief but everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I think it would be quite interesting to sit down five certain people at a table for a certain amount of time and hear the debate. If an egoist, social contract theorist, consequentialist, non-consequentialist, and a believer of ancient virtue ethics were to all sit down and discuss the issue of same-sex marriages, I feel that would be quite a show. It would be very interesting to see who said what to whom and what specific points and references each side made. Eventually, perhaps, they might try to come to an understanding but the likelihood of that occurring isn’t too great. This law, if it were to stay in effect for years and years, will, without a doubt, continue to stir outrage, strikes, and controversy throughout the world. Hopefully someday those against same-sex marriages will open their eyes and realize that homosexuals are people just like everybody else. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves-who will free the gays?
Courtney from Study Moose
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