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Why do many gays and lesbians seek marriages and unions

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Conflicting quotations:


"If marriage means everything, it means absolutely nothing." Dr. James C. Dobson, of Focus on the Family.

bullet "A loving man and woman in a committed relationship can marry. Dogs, no matter what their relationship, are not allowed to marry. How should society treat gays and lesbians in committed relationships? As dogs or as humans?" A posting to an Internet mailing list; used by permission of the author.

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Many gays and lesbians are actively involved in trying to enlarge marriage to include both opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples, Their reasons are many and varied. Three are:

bullet Emotional: Many same-sex couples feel a desire to have society recognize their lifetime commitment to each other -- just as many opposite-sex couples do.
bullet Security: Many have a desire to enjoy the security, protections, and cost savings which would flow from marriage, and the 400 or so state benefits automatically to married couples.
bullet Political: Laws criminalizing same-sex behavior are falling. Human rights laws granting protection in accommodation and employment are being created. But barriers in all but one state prevent same-sex couples from marrying or entering into a civil union. The bar to marriage is the last major obstacle to fall before the concept of equal "liberty and justice for all" can be applied to persons of all sexual orientations.

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Some personal stories:

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 1990 census, there were at least 5,194 same-sex couple households in Massachusetts. This rose by 229% to 17,099 households by the year 2000. 1 These numbers are undoubtedly underestimates because so many same-sex couples would disguise their relationship out of fear of persecution.

New England's Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) filed a lawsuit on behalf of seven of these couples on 2001-APR-11. It is Goodrich v. Dept. of Public Health. The plaintiffs, who have been in committed relationships of seven to 32 years duration, claim that they have the constitutional right to marry under the state's constitution.  "Four of the couples are raising children; others have faced health dilemmas. All are concerned about providing security for one another and their families but they lack the automatic extensive protections available through marriage. Each couple was denied a marriage license by local officials." 2 GLAD has placed their brief before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court online. 3 More details.

GLAD is the same organization that successfully argued a similar case before Vermont courts. One of their lawyers, Mary Bonauto, said "It's a bread-and-butter issue as well as an emotional issue. Many of these couples have taken every known legal protection and they have still found it isn't enough....It's a matter of fairness to all citizens of the commonwealth. It's the simplest solution...Everyone knows what marriage means." 4 She continued: "We turned to the courts because they are the body of government that enforces the Constitution and ensure that all citizens are treated equally and fairly. The action in Vermont lifted people's spirits. We felt the time had come."

According to the Rutland Herald, the lawsuit said that "Taxes, home mortgages, visits to children's teachers, health insurance, and just being able to see a hospitalized partner or child can become major issues." 4

GLAD's brief before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court -- the highest court in the state -- was heard on 2003-MAR-4. The couples all want to marry so that society will recognize their relationship. The brief also included a brief description of some of the practical reasons why the seven couples seek the permission to marry:

bullet One of the plaintiffs, Hillary Goodridge, stated in the lawsuit that even with a health care proxy she had difficulty getting in to see her partner, Julie Goodridge, when she had undergone a difficult delivery and their baby was in intensive care.
bullet A lesbian couple who have been together for three decades, Gloria Bailey and Linda Davies, are concerned about financial problems as they approach the age of retirement. They face taxes that married couples wouldn't have in passing on their home and joint psychotherapy practice if one of them died.
bullet David Wilson was treated as a stranger by a hospital emergency department when his partner of thirteen years had a heart attack, and died. David's current partner, Robert Compton, has health problems which require emergency care and they are concerned the earlier experience may be repeated.
bullet Edward Balmelli would like to name Michael Horgan, his partner of nine years, as beneficiary of his pension plan. He cannot at this time, because they are not allowed to marry and be recognized as spouses.
bullet Maureen Brodoff and Ellen Wade have been partners for 21 years. They seek marriage in order to provide greater legal security for their family. Their need is particularly acute since Ellen was diagnosed with breast cancer.
bullet Gary Chalmers and Richard Linnell have been together for 14 years and have an adopted daughter. Gary was unable to obtain a family health insurance policy through his place of work. They had to obtain separate policies at a considerable additional expense. They want the security of marriage for their own sake and for their daughter. They also want to register home jointly, but would have to incur tax penalties which would not apply if they were married.
bullet Heidi Norton and Gina Smith are raising two sons, aged two and five years. They have jointly adopted their sons. However, they "worry that Gina's relationship to their sons will not be respected; and despite preparation of legal documents, they worry about what will happen if they confront an emergency in an unfamiliar town." 3

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  1. "Census 2000," National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, at:
  2. "Massachusetts' Highest Court to Hear Landmark Suit Seeking Civil Marriage for Lesbian and Gay Couples on March 4," 2003-MAR, Marriage Equality California, at:
  3. GLAD's brief is online at: You need software to read these files. It can be obtained free from:
  4. "Gay activists sue over right to marry in Mass.," Rutland Herald, 2001-APR-12, at:

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Site navigation: Home page > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > here

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Copyright 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-MAR-5
Latest update: 2003-MAR-5
Author: B.A. Robinson

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