Same-Sex Marriage in Sociological Context Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1081 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Women's Issues - Sexuality

Same-Sex Marriage in Sociological Context

Same-sex marriage has recently emerged as one of the more important and definitional issues in the current U.S. presidential race. In many respects, the emerging pattern of public opinion about same-sex marriage mirrors the mid-20th century controversy surrounding interracial marriage and, more generally, racial equality issues that were the main focus of the 1960s civil rights movement in the U.S. To date, structural-functionalist elements have dominated the legal definition of marriage and the status of married people in American society. Meanwhile, the same-sex marriage issue highlights the most important limitations or criticisms of the structural-functionalist approach. Likewise, while the issue also represents elements of conflict theory, it demonstrates the principle flaw in conflict theory as a predominant macro-sociological framework for understanding human societies. In principle, the micro-sociological approach might be best-suited for understanding marriage as a contemporary social institution.

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The social institution of marriage has traditionally fulfilled fundamental social expectations in relation to norms and values about gender roles and the role of nuclear families in society (Henslin, 2008; Macionis, 2007). Traditional concepts of marriage and family serve functional purposes in identifying primary relationships and by defining various social behaviors and responses of individuals in society. They have also help maintain the social order by representing a normative consensus of shared values and behaviors as pertains to the role of marriage, particularly in terms of material, non-material, and quasi-material elements of society (Henslin, 2008; Macionis, 2007).

Term Paper on Same-Sex Marriage in Sociological Context Same-Sex Marriage Assignment

More specifically, the institution of marriage serves a fundamental functional purpose of signaling to others that a primary and committed relationship exists between two individuals. In all likelihood, this fundamental purpose helps explain why the institution of marriage developed universally throughout most known human cultures, even among those that could not possibly have influenced one another. By providing a functional mechanism to identify primary bonds between married individuals, the social institution of marriage serves the crucial function of reducing conflicts precipitated by social overtures by strangers toward pair-bonded individuals (Henslin, 2008; Macionis, 2007). Further evidence of this functional purpose would include the ubiquitous common material cultural elements universally associated with marriage in most human societies, such as wedding rings. By overtly identifying marital status, wedding rings allow married individuals to signal to others that they are unavailable and provide a means for others to determine what types of specific behaviors on their part are socially appropriate and acceptable (Henslin, 2008; Macionis, 2007).

In many respects, it is the non-material and quasi-material cultural elements of marriage that have become central to the contemporary controversy over the legality of same-sex marriage. That is because the formal designation of marriage is associated with extremely valuable legal rights, social benefits, and protections that are unavailable to couples who are pair-bonded but without the formal designation of marriage. Most of those benefits of marriage are non-material in the sense that they are not tangible, but they are profoundly important and determinative of normative elements of society that correspond to rights and privileges with very definite tangible or material economic and other consequences.

For example, married pair-bonded couples have specific advantages and statutory rights in relation to the distribution of their collective property upon marital dissolution or in connection with rights of survivorship after the… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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