An Attempt to Reform the Institution of Marriage in California

On 5th November 2008, Californians cast their votes to mark their stand towards same-sex marriage. This emotional vote was brought about by proposition 8 which called for amendments in the Californian Constitution which recognized same-sex marriages. As it could have been predicted, a majority of the popular vote voted for a ‘yes’ making it official that same-sex marriages would not be recognized in California. Later, the Californian Supreme Court listened to oral arguments that tried to point out the advantages and disadvantages that would be expected after the passage of proposition 8. Accordingly, the judges of the Supreme Court made a 6-1 decision favoring the upholding of the proposition. As a result, the Californian Constitution stated that “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” This decision though passed to the favor of those who felt that the definition of marriage should only entail a man and a woman only favored a mere 52% of the total voters in California. This means that 48% of the voters representing 4,883,460 people had their views canceled (Garrison et al, 2009). This paper seeks to identify the arguments for and against proposition 8 and thus identify the government’s position and what it means.

To have a clear understanding of this proposition, it is important to identify the historical aspect of the argument. In the Year 2000, proposition 22 was passed by the voting residents of California. This proposition sought for a specification in the state law that validated marriages between a man and a woman only. It was therefore officially accepted that only marriages between a man and a woman were recognized in California. Eight years later, the Californian Supreme Court made a ruling specifying that the clause that validated only the marriages between man and woman was violating the constitutional rights of Californians who had same-sex orientation. Their ruling was based on the fact that the Californian Constitution advocated for equal rights for every Californian including those with the same sex orientation. It allowed for their marriage. Accordingly, this ruling led to the validation of same-sex marriages. This remained the fact until the 2009 yes vote for proposition eight which led to the state’s recognition of opposite-sex marriages only (League of Women Voters, 2008).

Are there valid advantages that would have been accrued if proposition 8 failed? Arguments point out that there are several reasons as to why more than four million people opted to vote for a ‘no’ as opposed to 5 million others who voted for a ‘yes’. It is clear that the Constitution of any given country covers all the groups within the country regardless of their, color, race, age, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, etc. all these people have the right to enjoy the rights as pointed out by the constitution. Breaching of these rights for any given social setup outrightly indicates breaching of the Constitutional specifications which advocate for equality. This is the first argument for the ‘no’ voters. The voters specified that the formation of the Constitution to sideline the rights of people who have same-sex sexual orientation simply indicates that a group of people has been sidelined and treated differently from other members of the state. Same-sex people should be allowed to enjoy their rights under the protection of the Constitution. This would highlight the meaning of the nation founders who specified that the American society was founded under the law of equal protection. Therefore, providing protection for one group of people and denying other groups simply points out that the principles of the foundation of the American society were broken (League of Women Voters, 2008).

In many societies, marriage is an indication of respect and dignity. It is an institution through which couples are given an opportunity to show their lifetime commitment. As a result, all people have the right and freedom to marry without being conditioned by any person. However, proposition 8 does not recognize this freedom to the small group of lesbians and gays. The denial of recognition of same-sex marriages is denial and blockage of lesbians and gays to show their lifetime commitment to their partners and hence gain their dignity and respect to society. Proposition 8, therefore, acts as a weapon to deny one group of the society such benefits (League of Women Voters, 2008).

It is clear that American society is also founded on the principles of fairness, equality, and freedom for all. Failing to be fair to any of the citizens would be an indication of a failed democracy. This indicates that the Californian Constitution could be an undemocratic one if it allowed for treating a particular group of people unfairly. By passing Proposition 8, the message being clearly sent is that while some citizens’ decisions to get married are respected and recognized, others are being treated differently and their marriages are not being recognized. This is being unfair and thus going against the foundational principles of American society. In the same perspective, the no voters specified that singling out a small section of the society and refusing to acknowledge them is unfair. All citizens should be allowed to show their love and commitment to their couples unconditionally. This should be done irrespective of the type of the partner’s sex. It is therefore unfair to treat some serious commitments differently from others (League of Women Voters, 2008).

One thing that the government has no business or does not have the mandate to engage in is an individual’s taste and choice. The government has no right to engage in a person’s private life. It does not specify the TV channel to watch nor the books to read. It does not have to force a person to believe in a certain religion or belief. All these are individual and personal decisions of a person and the government has to respect and protect each person’s decision. Just like the other aspects of an individual’s private life is married life. The government has no mandate to choose a partner for any of its citizens. It has no right to tell an individual to love one person and leave the other. Doing this would be taken as a dictatorship. However, this is what the government is doing to the lesbians and gays in California. They are being forced to stop loving the people they really love and want to make a lifetime commitment so that they can love those people they don’t have a feeling for. This is being unfair, according to those who voted a no (League of Women Voters, 2008).

This notwithstanding, some people failed to understand why the government should allow for the recognition of same-sex marriages. They felt that the arguments being offered by the opponents of proposition 8 were baseless. They felt that the specifications of proposition 8 did not take away any rights from lesbians and gays. According to the proposition, same-sex marriages and opposite-sex marriages enjoyed equal rights and offered no impositions to one group or the other. The only role played by the proposition was to restore the original meaning of marriage. A meaning held throughout history and even confirmed by Californians in the year 2000 before some judges in San Francisco changed the specification allowing for the recognition of same-sex marriages. Accordingly, the ruling by four judges at the expense of 61% of Californians in 2000 could not be justified (League of Women Voters, 2008).

No parent in this world would be comfortable if his little innocent child would be taught principles that he deems unworthy. This would be even worse if the teachings are about family and health. In fact, Californian law does not allow this. It clearly states that no child can be forcibly taught about health and family issues without the consent of the parents. However, this would not be so if proposition 8 fails. Arguments for point out that failure of proposition 8 means that students would be taught about the definition of marriage that is against their own acceptance. This means that the failure of the proposition would mean that their children would be at risk of understanding what marriage actually is (League of Women Voters, 2008).

In addition to these arguments, other specifications point out the importance of a yes for proposition 8. This does not only look at the value part of the argument but also goes further to identify scholarly proofs of the importance of allowing for opposite-sex marriage only. Pruett (2001) of Yale Child Study Center pointed out that children usually have a deep-seated need for their biological parents. Deriving them of this makes them develop a hunger that could be detrimental to their developmental process. In her study, she goes further to identify that validating homosexual marriages would mean more children who have a hunger for their biological parents, a phenomenon that would lead to a great problem in the cluster of kids under this umbrella. Owing to the fact that most homosexual couples opt for adoption and in vitro fertilization, the children under their care eventually develop the need for a father or a mother who is usually not available. In addition to this, fathers are an important part of a child’s developmental process. One of the greatest roles of a father is the removal of antisocial behavior in their children. The presence of a father leads to the reduction of delinquency in boys while in girls it leads to proper sexual activities. Allowing same-sex marriages would mean that children who are adopted or born from in vitro fertilization are innocently subjected to such behavior due to the absence of a father. A study has also indicated that girls who spent their time without their fathers were more at risk of experiencing early puberty and also were more likely to experience early teenage pregnancies as compared to those that spent their lives with their biological fathers (Popenoe, 1999).

Still on the issue of children being exposed to the unworthy environment and thus developing developmental complications, legalizing same-sex marriages would mean that most kids brought up in a same-sex couple family will be exposed to the danger of having gender and sexual disorders. Studies by Stacey and Biblarz (2000) pointed out that physically, the children brought up by same-sex couples tended to portray the opposite sex characteristics. For example, girls brought up in such an environment tended to be more masculine and male-like as opposed to those brought up by a heterosexual couple. On the other hand, male children brought up by same-sex couples tended to be less masculine as opposed to their counterparts who are brought up by a heterosexual couple. Furthermore, children brought up by lesbians tended to have greater chances of developing homoerotic relationships. While the methodology of this research could be pointed out as flawed, it is a clear indication that some aspects of the children’s developmental process could greatly be altered if given chance to live with homosexual parents. This is a very important point to note because same-sex parents would at some point want to have children. The children would then be innocently subjected to such complicated developments because of the specifications of the law. Therefore, it looked important for those who voted a yes to push for their side of the vote.

Sexual fidelity is an important part of marriage. In addition, this would be very essential in the current times of increasing rates of HIV and AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. This was one point to note. Those who voted for a yes pointed out that allowing same-sex marriages would lead to an increase in the rate of sexually transmitted diseases. Their argument was based on the study by Mattison and McWhirter (1984) who found out that homosexuals specifically the gay, were more likely to engage in extramarital affairs as compared to those in heterosexual marriages. In their study, they pointed out that 79% of men and women in heterosexual marriages viewed sexual fidelity as a strong value. This was opposed to 50% of men in gay relationships who felt that sexual fidelity was a strong value. This finding is very essential in the argument for Proposition 8. Allowing homosexuality would encourage more people who would not have joined the group to do so. The results would be drastic. An increase in the rate of sexually transmitted diseases would be experienced.

The decision by the government to allow for the yes vote by the citizens does not only point out the government’s decision to listen to its citizens, but it also shows the seriousness of the issue. Basing on the results of scholars concerning the implication of this issue on the government, it is appropriate to understand their decision to consider revising the constitutional specifications since 2008 which allowed for same-sex marriages.

Seeing marriage from an emotional perspective completely diverts it from its fundamental purpose of procreation. Accordingly, allowing for same-sex marriage simply fails to honor the traditional meaning of marriage. It is argued that most of the organizations in contemporary society have defined marriage from its emotional point of view thus allowing for same-sex people to engage in marriage provided they are emotionally attached. While this might appear to be a trivial factor, its economic, political, and social implications are great. This mentality could lead to a population crunch which would implicate greatly on the productivity of the country. For example, countries that have legalized homosexuality have also proved to be the countries with the lowest fertility rate that was rated to be about 1.6 which is far much below the fertility rate of 2.1 which is the standard replacement rate. This means that allowing for same-sex marriage is a matter of government concern. When the population crunch starts setting in, it will be great pressure on the government. It will be the government that will bear the brunt for failing to provide for its citizens (CIA, 2009).

However, the government does not benefit economically from the decision in a short-term perspective. In fact, the government could incur great losses with the refusal to recognize same-sex marriages. With the validity of same-sex marriages, the government would receive great revenues from weddings by same-sex couples which would come in terms of sales tax. Refusal to validate same-sex marriages, therefore, meant that the government would incur losses for a short while. This perspective points out that the government put more weight on the long-term economic implications as opposed to the losses that it could incur from the reduction of sales taxes. This clearly points out the reason why the government had to re-think the stand (League of Women Voters, 2008).

In conclusion, it is clear that both sides of the issue had valid reasons. This could be identified by the results which gave the yes side a narrow victory of four percent. The government, therefore, had to let the decision come from the citizens. On its part, the government considered the economic, political, and social implications of the issue and decided to let the issue be revised and give decisive powers to the citizens. Although it had considered the short-term losses in terms of reduced sales tax, the government knew that the implications of a demographic crunch were more serious as compared to this loss.


  1. CIA (2009). Fertility Rates.
  2. Garrison, J., DiMassa, C. And Paddock, R. “Voters approve proposition 8 banning same sex marriages.” Los Angeles Times.
  3. League of Women Voters of California Education Fund. (2008). “.” Web.
  4. McWhirter, D. and Mattison, A. (1984). The Male Couple New York: Prentice Hall
  5. Popenoe, D. (1999). Life Without Father. Boston: Harvard University Press
  6. Pruett, K. (2001) Fatherneed.Broadway Books
  7. Stacey, J. and Biblarz, T. “(How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter?” American Sociological Review 66: 159-183.

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