The Catholic Church’s influence on same-sex marriage debates

In the United States, there are 38 states which have banned same-sex marriage and 6 states that allow civil unions, but not marriage. This means that there are merely 12 states that recognize same-sex marriage in the United States. It is evident that a great majority of citizens of the United States are invested in creating a homophobic atmosphere within the United States. 

While the issue of same-sex marriage remains extremely controversial in modern politics, there are many factors that can influence an individual’s public opinion of certain proposed laws and policies. Such factors include the religion and the culture of the individual, as these aspects help to construct one’s identity in his or her own community. From the very beginning of the same-sex marriage proposals, religious groups, such as the Catholic Church, have persistently opposed these same-sex marriage bills on the basis of their religious beliefs.

The Catholic Church is one such example of a kind of religious institution which maintains a great sphere of influence. The Catholic Church has gained immense political power to influence its members in their political issues, as well as their personal beliefs. The Catholic Church has been notorious for its political stance against homosexuality, using quotes from the Bible as the source of reason behind this opposition. According to Leviticus 20:13, “If a man also shall lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them”. This clearly homophobic quote is used by modern Catholics to condemn homosexuals and to refuse the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Furthermore, surveys offer a source of statistics that can help to define the cause for this unwillingness to support same-sex marriage in the United States. A survey conducted in 2003 by the Pew Research Center indicates that while approximately “59% of Americans oppose and 32% favor same-sex marriage…that ratio jumps to more than six-to-one (80% to 12%)” for individuals with “high levels of religious commitment” (Schuman, 2108). This study suggests that individuals with a more religious background tend to oppose same-sex marriage proposals. This statistic indicates that the Catholic Church does in fact possess a political influence on its members.

In 2001, it was estimated that approximately 76.5% of Americans identified as “Christian, including over 50 million Catholics and over 33 million Baptists”. With their sphere of influence reaching more than 50 million Americans, the Catholic Church retains a large portion of the voting population.

Similarly to the dehumanization of the natives by the Europeans, the Catholic Church has condemned homosexuals as extremely sinful individuals who blatantly rebel against the word of God. In Leviticus 20:13, the Bible illustrates homosexuality as sinful and claims that “[homosexuals] shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them”. This blatantly violent image suggests the right of Christians to put a man “to death” if the individual engages in homosexual acts.

Ultimately the Catholic Church, along with other religious groups, retains the power that allows them to impose a sphere of influence on the political beliefs of their congregation members. Although the United States has twelve states that have legalized same-sex marriage, there are thirty-eight more states that do not recognize the legality of same-sex marriage.  With a transnational perspective, it’s obvious that despite the strong religious presence and the Catholic Church’s stance on same-sex marriage, Argentina has been able to adapt to modern issues and allow the passage of same-sex marriage. While the United States could learn from Argentina’s example, it encompasses an entirely different religious and cultural setting which makes simply copying Argentina unlikely.

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Generating Discussion: Continuities and Change

Summary and Reading Connections of “Continuities and Change: Five Centuries of Prostitution in the Caribbean” by Kamala Kempadoo

In this reading by Kamala Kempadoo, she examines the continuities of five centuries of prostitution in the Caribbean. Initially in the 1990’s, prostitution started as a way of entertaining the influx of foreign visitors to the Caribbean. Soon, the Caribbean became notorious for their prostitution and this form of “sex tourism” was sold to foreigners. The author connects the sex trade and prostitution of the Caribbean with Beckles’ article on the fight for power and control over slaves during the period of slavery in the United States. The white slave owners would demand complete access to the black female slaves, including sexual acts, even if the female slave was married. In this way, sex was used by the white plantation owners as a form of control and a way in order to “keep down” the black male slaves. In a similar fashion, the prostitution in the Caribbean is used to manifest control for white men. White men who travel to the Caribbean feel entitled to sex from the black (and dark) women of the Caribbean. Kempadoo describes that the relationship between the white man and the mulatto “came to be represented as erotic and sexually desirable yet was outcast”. This creates an aura of forbidden lust where the white man is free to satisfy his sexual pleasure.

Kempadoo also notes that the sex tourism in the Caribbean focuses its audience to primarily heterosexual males and as a result, a new form of tourism evolved called “romance tourism”. Kempadoo explains that this “romance tourism” seeks to separate itself from prostitution and human sex trafficking as it tends to produce “longer term relationships that are established”.

The author then discusses the racialized and gendered aspects of the sex workers in the Caribbean which leads to the “subordination of women” and to “female sex workers [being] marginalized and disrespected as ‘whores'”. However, for male sex workers, they are not branded with such offensive words such as slut or whore; instead they are referred to as “player, gigalo” and even “hustler”. Thus, their sexuality is not degraded in any way, as they are often seen as “[using] their masculine power to penetrate local economies”. This view depicts male sex workers as hardworking individuals who are using their sexuality in order to move ahead in the specific economic hardships, while female sex workers are seen more predominantly as loose, immoral, and outcast individuals.

Questions:

How has the difference between the portrayal of male and female sex workers in the Caribbean added to the unequal representations of sex tourism? Why are male and female sex workers depicted differently solely based on their gender?

How would sex tourism change if it not only focused on heterosexuality in the Caribbean?

Would government involvement in the regulation of prostitution and sex trafficking complicate or alleviate the anxiety for the sex workers?

Same-sex Marriage in Argentina

Marcha a favor de la Ley del Matrimonio gay en...

Marcha a favor de la Ley del Matrimonio gay en Argentina (Photo credit: Globovisión)

Context of Issue: On July 15, 2010, Argentina’s Senate passed a law allowing same-sex marriage. Argentina is the first country in South America to recognize same-sex marriage and it is the tenth country worldwide to allow same-sex marriage. Argentina is one of the leading countries in the Americas as far as the progression towards acceptance of the LGBT community. Compared to the United States, which has reportedly fallen behind in these LGBT rights debates, Argentina seems to have taken the lead in this sense. Argentina maintains an atmosphere of openness to the rights of the LGBT community, even despite the strong presence of religion in their culture. Whereas in countries like Mexico and Honduras, who also possess a strong religious presence, pro-LGBT communities have approached the government with hopes of allowing same-sex marriage and rights, and were consequently met with intolerance and an “anti-gay atmosphere”. In the United States, the government is supposed to be separate from religion with the “separation of church and state”; however, the churches’ opposition to same-sex marriage has been voiced publicly and consequently discussed in the debate against the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States. The United States has been unable to legalize same-sex marriage and many believe that the churches’ blatant opposition and public position play an important role in this result. In this essay, I will focus on the comparison of Argentina and the United States in their progress of the same-sex marriage debate. I will also try to focus on the church’s prominence as a major opposition to the same-sex marriage proposal and how Argentina has managed to overcome this issue, despite the prominence of religion in their culture.

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Same-Sex Marriage in Argentina

On July 15, 2010, Argentina’s Senate passed a law allowing same-sex marriage. Argentina is the first country in South America to recognize same-sex marriage and it is the tenth country worldwide to allow same-sex marriage. Argentina is one of the leading countries in the Americas as far as LGBT tolerance and transgender rights. In this article by the New York Times, Argentina’s Senate debate is described and their decision is analyzed by the author. The author analyzes Argentina’s openness to the rights of the LGBT community, even despite the strong presence of religion in their culture. Whereas in countries like Mexico and Honduras, who also possess a strong religious presence, pro-LGBT communities have approached the government with hopes of allowing same-sex marriage and rights, and were consequently met with intolerance and an “anti-gay atmosphere”.

Compared to the same-sex marriage and rights debate in the United States, it seems as though quite a few Americans are unwilling to stand behind LGBT rights and debates. In this article by CNN, it’s evident that the majority of American states are presenting an anti-gay atmosphere towards the LGBT community, where 38 of the U.S. states have banned same-sex marriage and an estimated 48% of Americans are opposed to same-sex marriage  in 2012.

In this video by CNN, Dr. Ben Carson’s comment on same-sex marriage are discussed in the interview. Dr. Carson compared same-sex marriage to bestiality and pedophilia and claimed that gays “don’t get to change the definition [of marriage as between a man and a woman”.

Lastly, in this article by CNN, it’s revealed that the new Pope, former archbishop of Buenas Aires, has secretly supported the civil unions in Argentina. It’s reported that the Pope displays a certain “willingness behind-the-scenes to accept civil unions as a compromise”.

Despite America’s strong belief that it is ‘the land of the free’, it seems as though it’s fallen behind in the LGBT rights issues. In my research paper, I plan to address Argentina’s open approach to same-sex marriage and its acceptance of the LGBT community, while other countries such as Mexico, Honduras and the United States have reportedly fallen behind in these areas.