A History of Same-Sex Marriage and Homosexuality

An important and controversial topic that has been a popular topic lately is gay marriage. Some believe that people should be free to express how they feel any way they want, on the other hand, Christians typically share the opinion that God created marriage to be between one man and one woman. These opposite opinions have created a rift between the nation as well as friends and family. Obergefell v. Hodges is a Supreme Court case that deals with this topic of gay marriage. The case occurs between Jim Obergefell, a gay man who felt it was unjust that his name could not go on his husband’s death certificate, and Richard A. Hodges who was the Director of the Ohio Department of Public Health and appointed to be the representative against gay marriage. It was a case that changed the course of the country drastically.

History of Gay Marriage

During a crazy year of terrorist attacks, major murder trials, multiple shootings, black lives matter debates and the presidentials campaigns. There was yet another major event that affected our country of America. Obergefell v. Hodges caused us to change the way we view gay marriage as a nation. The earliest recorded case dealing with same sex marriage was between Baker and Nelson in October 10 1972. Two male University of Minnesota students tried to apply for a marriage license, but were denied by the clerk working at the time. They took him to court and thus created Baker v. Nelson, which had a short trial and was dismissed quickly. There was no explanation for why it was not taken further, but, many have used this case in court as example of discrimination against same sex couples.

A year later Maryland was the first state to ban same sex marriage. In September of 1996 Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that denied same sex couples from receiving federal benefits. This act was later deemed unconstitutional, and was no longer a federal law as a result of Obergefell v. Hodges. In the next decade, multiple states banned same sex marriage and gay couples were not allowed to marry legally. Fast forward about 5 more years and the view and opinion of same sex marriage has shifted. More states are making it legal, starting with California, and gay marriage is slowly becoming more acceptable despite the growing controversy. In 2012, President Obama becomes the first sitting president to be openly supportive of gay marriage, this shifts more people views depending whether they supported Obama or not. Soon after, more and more cases were making their way into court to fight the bans on same sex marriage.

Many protests and pride parades were held, sometimes getting violent, but many felt it was their right to be able to marry who they wanted to marry and did not want laws to get in the way. In 2013, many state governors signed the same sex marriage law allowing gay marriage in their state. 2014 was full of states marriage bans being knocked down, and tens of thousands of gay couples were getting their marriage licences. Although our country’s view of same sex marriage rights had vastly changed from that of 1972, not everyone was happy. Many states still banned gay marriage and suppressed their rights. After many cases being taken to court, rallys, strikes, parades, and protests, the case of Obergefell v. Hodges came to be. Richard A. Hodges was the Director of the Ohio Department of Public Health.

Aligning with his job, Hodges was appointed to be the representative against gay marriage. Jim Obergefell was a gay man who felt that it was unjust that his name could not appear as spouse on his husband’s death certificate. John Arthur and Jim Obergefell were married a short three months before John died of ALS, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurological disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spine. A very fatal disease that caused John to lose control and movement of most of his body, as a result of this disease the two men had to be flown in on a medical jet for the trials. Arthur died in 2013 as a result of ALS and did not make it to the end ruling of the trials.

History of Homosexuality

On the other hand there is homosexuality, which is different from gay marriage. Homosexuality has been around longer than same sex marriage, it has been around since Bible times and before. Homosexuality was known to be most prominent in ancient Greece and was greatly integrated into their societies. But, the first recorded instances of homosexuality were believed to be in East Asia, with recordings beginning around 600 BCE. In the recordings it seems to be integrated casually into tellings of that day, as if they were talking about an everyday action or event. In Europe homosexuality was viewed by some as a version of population control, because if two men or two women were together rather than with someone of the opposite gender, they would not be having kids, thus regulating the population better.

So, because it was seen as a version of population control it was not very widely hated as it provided a purpose. On the other hand, some viewed it as an honor to engage in the act of homosexuality, because some viewed it as a symbol of luxury or royalty. During that time many emperors and rulers took youths to be their lovers and it was a regular act for most rulers. This would not pass today in our society, but times were different back then. Emperor Theodosius was an emperor in ancient Rome, and was one of the few against homosexuality. He made it a punishable offense saying that no man should attempt to take the role of a woman, or vice versa. All of these established civilization’s paintings and sculptures were greatly impacted by the presence of homosexuality in their cities. There have been multiple artwork findings depicting same sex couples in East Asia, Rome, Europe and others. The Renaissance had a large impact on homosexuality and how it was viewed.

Wealthy cities such as Florence, Venice, and northern Italy had large populations of homosexuals, to some it was an interpretation of art. But, a good section of the population was imprisoned, fined, and prosecuted by authoritative figures that were called Officers of the Night. In the Middle East homosexuality was not as accepted, so some love poems were purposely mis translated from being about a young boy to a young girl, to better fit the picture they wanted to represent. Several Muslim countries and countries in the middle east have put in place the death penalty as a punishment for engaging in homosexual acts. As homosexuality is considered a major sin in the Middle East, many are forced to hide their sexuality from the hostile religious environment around them, thus presenting the picture that no one there is gay. In the Americas, homosexuals were given the term “two spirited”, and were believed to hold a special purpose in social standing as well as holding a place in ceremonies. Among Indian tribes and civilizations homosexuality was practiced openly and not hidden.

So when the Spanish conquerors arrived they were appalled to find that it was openly practiced without shame. Berdaches became common as they were used as an attempt to rid the tribes of this terrible sin. Those who practiced homosexuality were also subjected to being burned, public executions, and using wild dogs to tear apart the person. Their methods were very extreme and proved somewhat effective. Homosexuality back then was practiced very openly and without shame or consequences. Today homosexuality is more common than in the past 50 years and has become more accepted, but is not without its consequences and judgements.

Supreme Court Members

In the Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges there were eight justices and one chief justice. John Roberts was the chief justice, he has been in office since 2005 is a Roman Catholic and voted against the same sex marriage law(“John Roberts: Biography”). Along with him are Antonin Scalia who was Roman Catholic and voted against as well, he died in 2016 after being in office since 1986(“Antonin Scalia”). Anthony Kennedy is a Roman Catholic who votes for same sex marriage and was in office from 1988 to 2018(“Anthony Kennedy”). Clarence Thomas is also a Roman Catholic that voted in favor of same sex marriage, he is known for his conservative view and despite being accused of sexual harassment, he is still a member of the Supreme Court(“Clarence Thomas”).. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a Jewish woman who voted for same sex marriage and has been a member of the Supreme Court since 1993(“Ruth Bader Ginsburg”).. Stephen Bryer is also Jewish and voted yes for the law, he has been a member since 1994(“Stephen Bryer”). Samuel Alito is a Catholic who voted against same sex marriage, he was a member from 1986- 2016 and was known for his witty humor and thorough questioning(“Samuel Alito”). Sonia Sotomayor is a Roman Catholic who was the first Hispanic member of the Supreme Court, she voted for same sex marriage and has been serving since 2009(“Sonia Sotomayor”). And lastly Elena Kagan, she is Jewish and has been a member since 2010, she was initially against same sex marriage but changed her vote to with in the end. These were all of the members at the current time of the case(“Elena Kagan”). As far as I could see, these judges held no bias or preferences, their religion did not seem to play a part in their decisions at all.

Outcome of case

Obergefell v. Hodges began after a series of complaints were brought to court, the largest one being the case of James Obergefell. The case was taken to Supreme Court where, after a series of arguments and statements, on June 26, 2015, the case ended in a 5-4 vote which passed the law that same sex marriage would be legal in all fifty states. Many people rejoiced at the news that they would now be able to marry and apply for a marriage license with the person they loved. Not only were gays and lesbians happy with the news but many others were as well. Whether they knew or were related to someone who was attracted to the same sex, or this was just their opinion on the matter, many were excited. But, not everyone was happy with the final ruling. There are a couple types of people who are against same sex marriage. Those who oppose it because of their religion but still choose to be loving towards them, those who do not particularly care and are just in the middle, and the ones who are extreme sending death threats, protesting, disowning their children, and shunning them from society. As Christians we strive to be like the first example and show love towards these people and kindly, as well as sternly, guide them on the right path.

The end vote was 5-4 in favor of James Obergefell and same sex marriage. During the beginning of the trials Elena Kagan was on the side of voting against same sex marriage. But, she switch opinions seemingly when she presented the idea that, “More adopted children in more married homes seems like a good thing (Elena Kagan).” If she had kept her side of the argument it can be speculated that same sex marriage would not have been legal and the case would have ended a different way. But, most likely people would have kept bringing cases to court and fighting for their rights, and the law would have been passed with more of a delayed timeline.

Impact

After the trial was over James Obergefell was very happy about the outcome, but was obviously missing the companionship of his late husband John Arthur, who had died two years earlier. In a video filmed by C-Span, that was taken right after the ruling, James thanked many people including his legal team, his judges, the Supreme Court and the millions of people who sided with him through his battle. He also encouraged those who still face persecution or discrimination for their sexual orientation, and reminded them to stay strong(Obergefell ruling reaction). Richard Hodges retired in 2017, two years after the case, to pursue other paths and to see what else he could use he talents for. As expected, there was a bounty of people who were upset with the ruling. Some taking to Facebook or other social media platforms, and others quietly keeping to themselves. Years later, James Obergefell is still a topic of conversation, as people have turned to him for his opinion on topics considering same sex marriage or the transgender conversation. He still feels the same, in which he was glad that he was able to pave a way for others in society. As the case was only three years ago, it is still a daily topic in our country and is still a controversial and touchy subject to some.

Views after Trial

As the gay rights law was passed many people saw it as a redemption of the justice system, and a new era where gays would be recognized as people and hopefully be treated a little better. Multiple cases involving gay marriage were dropped or not thoroughly looked into, which left some feeling like they could not be themselves or have the same rights as everyone else. On the other hand, others, mainly members of a conservative denomination, felt that the justice system was no longer seem as equal. Some gave reasons such as, if they were to go up against a gay person in court, that person may be favored more due to the social standards considering gay rights. They may be afraid that their name would be slandered, or that they would be accused of “discrimination” or “prejudice”. Every person should be equal in court and no one person, or group of people, should be held in higher regards than the other.

Our Country has changed in many ways as a result of this case. There have been changes regarding the tension between the two sides, HIV growth, and adoption statistics, and laws in relation with gay people and marriages. These have all had large impacts on our country as a whole, some in larger ways than others.

Adoption

Since the final ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges, there has been much change regarding adoption statistics. Because gay couples were finally able to be legally recognized, many of them wanted to make their dreams of having families come true. As a result of it being biologically impossible to produce a child with someone of the same sex, adoptions grew and kids were being brought into new homes. According to the group Lifelong Adoptions, in America, the estimated total children living with at least one gay parent is six to fourteen million. That group of children makes up about 4% of all adopted children. Not all gay couples will adopt, whether they just do not want to have children, or they do not have the finances. But, according to a survey, about two million gay couples or singles are interested in adopting. The highest number of adopted children being raised by gay parents is in the state of California(LGBT Adoption Statistics). There have been arguments as to whether or not being raised in a gay household is a “healthy environment” for children. But, people say it is a very safe and loving environment and although there are many pros and cons, courts have deemed it acceptable to let gay couples adopt. There have been stories regarding these households saying that if a child is raised in a gay household they themselves will be highly likely to become gay because they are following the influence of those around them.

Conclusion

The Obergefell v. Hodges case had a very large impact on the nation such as a change in adoption statistics, the effect of HIV and a shift in the way the government views people and rights. Homosexuality and gay rights have been present in society for centuries and it is still as relevant, if not more so, than ever. Christians think that the case has had a negative impact on the nation because people have chosen to be one thing or another. They change their personalities, orientations, their minds, and everything that God has made special and unique about them as a specific person. We think it is sad to see how the world has changed over the years, and even though homosexuality and gay rights have been present in past centuries and the shaping of civilizations and cities, it has been much more prevalent within the past decade. There have been many rallies, parades, protests and riots where people fight for rights they believe are owed to them. In conclusion, Obergefell v. Hodges had a great impact on the nation and its inhabitants, but it does not seem to be an effect in the right direction. Although we should treat others with love and grace at all times, some may need a little bit tougher of love and truth.