SAME-SEX MARRIAGE AND CIVIL UNIONS
Why do many gays and lesbians seek marriages and unions
"If marriage means everything, it means absolutely
nothing." Dr. James C. Dobson, of Focus on the Family.
||"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
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:
||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.
||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.
||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
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
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
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:
||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.
||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.
||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
||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.
||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
||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.
||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
Copyright © 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2003-MAR-5
Latest update: 2003-MAR-5
Author: B.A. Robinson