Other Religions Atheism and Agnosticism Moral and Social Arguments for Gay Marriage Can Same-Sex Marriage Benefit Society? Share Flipboard Email Print Doug Menuez/Photodisc/Getty Images Other Religions Belief Systems Atheism and Agnosticism Logic Ethics Key Figures in Atheism Evolution Atheism Myths and Misconceptions By Austin Cline Atheism Expert M.A., Princeton University B.A., University of Pennsylvania Austin Cline, a former regional director for the Council for Secular Humanism, writes and lectures extensively about atheism and agnosticism. our editorial process Austin Cline Updated June 25, 2019 Debates over gay marriage involve both legal and social arguments, for and against. Legal arguments on behalf of gay marriage tend to get more attention because it should be a matter of basic civil and equal rights. Even if gay marriage were harmful, the equality and dignity of gay couples should be respected. Yet, it's not demonstrable that gay marriage is harmful. On the contrary, there are good reasons to think that legalized gay marriage can benefit us all. Gays as Individuals Are Better Off Studies repeatedly demonstrate that people who marry tend to be better off financially, emotionally, psychologically, and even medically. Marriage is not universally an improvement (women, for example, can actually be worse off in some ways), but it generally is. Due to this, it stands to reason that legalized gay marriage can prove beneficial for gay individuals as well. This, in turn, will be better for gay couples as well as their families and communities. Gay Couples Are Better Off Perhaps the most important aspect of marriage is that it establishes a legal and social relationship which makes it easier for people to "be there" for each other - economically, emotionally, and psychologically. Most of the rights and privileges that go with marriage are, in fact, ways to help spouses support each other. Married couples are thus much better off than unmarried couples. Marriage gives relationships the ability to grow stronger and deeper. Families with Gay Members Are Better Off When gay people couldn't marry, it was very difficult for partners to help each other in difficult situations like medical crises. The burden of support and decision-making typically falls in the laps of other family members rather than one's chosen life partner. Now that people know that they can rely on their relative's spouse, they will be far less anxious about what will happen to their loved one. This extends beyond the context of a crisis but can be applied in general terms as well. Children of Gay Couples Are Better Off The Christian Right would deny same-sex couples the ability to adopt or raise children, but that's an impossible goal. Children are already being born to, adopted by, and raised by such couples in increasing numbers, and not just those who are legally married. Children in stable, married households can be better off than those who aren't. This is because both parents can handle decision-making and parenting without worry. Communities with Gay Couples Are Better Off Married couples can help and support each other in a variety of ways because laws and regulations are written to help that happen. For example, people are able to take time off to help their hospitalized spouse. Same-sex couples didn't receive the same help when they weren't able to marry. Much of what gay partners should have been able to do for each other had to be shouldered by the community at large, unnecessarily draining resources. By solidifying relationships, gay marriage will help stabilize communities overall. Gay Marriages Help Stabilize Society Generally Conservatives who usually oppose gay marriage argue, correctly, that stable families are a cornerstone of a stable society. Families are the smallest social unit in society and trends in the family inevitably affect trends in society as a whole - and vice-versa, of course. Same-sex marriages will help better integrate those couples and their relationships into society. Ensuring that gay relationships are stable and receive support will benefit the stability of society overall. Gay Marriage Could Benefit Marriage Generally Opponents of gay marriage argue that it will undermine the institution of marriage. It's hard to see how more marriages would be bad for marriage. If anything harms marriage, it is bad marriages where people don't take marriage seriously. This is already too common with heterosexuals. Now that gay couples in committed relationships are able to formalize their unions as marriages, they may help improve marriage overall by providing more positive role models. The Future of Gay Marriage in America Opponents of gay marriage appear willing to do anything at all to reverse it. The reason is that cultural, social, and political forces in America are moving almost inexorably towards the acceptance of legal gay marriage. Sooner or later, marriage for same-sex couples will be as accepted and recognized as marriage has traditionally been for heterosexual couples. Major steps in this process have already occurred in many Western countries as well as America itself. Opponents of gay marriage appear to recognize this. They seem to realize that the cultural, social, and political forces are against them. This is why they are so determined to enact federal laws, and perhaps even constitutional amendments, to prevent gay marriage from having the same status as heterosexual marriage, even though it is legal. If cultural, social, and political forces were on their side, this wouldn't be necessary. What is the future of gay marriage in America? Full acceptance and recognition, just as is the case today with interracial and interfaith marriages. It will take a long time for this to occur. Even interracial and interfaith marriages continue to be looked down upon by many in America today. Not even racial integration and equality have come as far as they ideally should have. All of these have been opposed by the same religious and political forces which currently oppose gay marriage. There is every reason to think that they will have the same success in hindering gay marriage. This means that social and political barriers will continue to be thrown up in front of gay couples and their supporters, despite the full legal basis for their unions. In the long term, though, these barriers will fall apart because the bigotry and animosity towards gays will lose the sort of support they currently have. Perhaps progress will be even faster because of the progress made with other minorities thus far in America.