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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage

The National Association of the Deaf
(NAD) supports marriage equality

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Sponsored link.

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"GLBT" refers to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community

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NAD was established in 1880 as:

"... the nation's premier civil rights organization of, by, and for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States. The NAD is shaped by the deaf leaders of today who believe in the right of the American deaf community to use sign language, congregate on issues important to them, and represent community interests at the national level with American Sign Language as a core value.

The advocacy scope of NAD is broad, impacting future generations in the areas of early intervention, education, employment, health care, technology, telecommunications, youth leadership, and more, transforming the lives of millions of deaf and hard of hearing Americans. On the international front, NAD represents the United States of America in the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD), an international human rights organization.

The NAD is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supported by the generosity of individual and organizational donors, including corporations and foundations." 1

Deaf and hard of hearing people have had previous conflicts over equal treatment including access to marriage:

  • In ancient Rome, persons who were born deaf had no legal rights or obligations. They were forbidden to marry.

  • St Augustine (354-430 CE)  taught that deaf persons were excluded from salvation because they could not hear the "Word of God. In Romans 10:17 Paul taught that "... faith cometh by hearing and hearing the Word of God." Augustine attributed hearing handicapped children to earlier sins committed by their parents. 2

  • In 1884, Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, published a paper "Upon the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race". He warned of a "great calamity" facing the nation because deaf people at the time were socializing with one another, forming clubs, developing relationships and marrying other deaf people. He favored "oralism" which involved the suppression of communication via sign language and teaching deaf students how to communicate using lip reading, speech, etc.

    At the time, some eugenicists agitated for laws that would make deaf people ineligible to marry. One web site states that although Bell supported the eugenics movement generally, he was opposed to a marriage ban for deaf persons. He advocated that the causes of intermarriages among deaf persons be found, and that they be systematically eliminated. 3 However, another information source stated that Bell actually advocated laws prohibiting marriage by two deaf persons, and that some states actually passed such legislation. 2,7 Having experienced discrimination and pressures to eliminate their marriage rights, many deaf persons are sensitive to laws that prohibit the right of GLBT's couples to marry.

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2012: NAD promotes marriage equality:

On 2012-MAY-25, the Board of Directors of NAD issued a statement expressing strong support for the rights of GLBT deaf and hard of hearing individuals to marry. The statement said, in part:

"The NAD affirmatively states its strong support for GLBT marriage equality, consistent with equal protections under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This stance is also consistent with the NAD mission to safeguard the civil, human and linguistic rights of deaf and hard of hearing individuals -- whose marriage rights have been suppressed throughout history. Accordingly, the NAD supports national, state and local policy or legislative initiatives that promote the right to marriage equality for all people, including GLBT deaf and hard of hearing individuals." 4

NAD President, Bobbie Beth Scoggins, wrote in mid-2012 that NAD is:

"... committed to equal rights for every member of the deaf and hard of hearing community, including those who are also members of other communities. Our focus this year is on creating an inclusive conference with more diverse presenters, emcees and luncheon keynoters than at any previous conference, and ensuring the success of our youth luncheon, our senior citizens luncheon, and our first-ever GLBT luncheon..."

Governor Dennis Daugaard (R) of South Dakota had been invited as a plenary presenter during the 51st Biennial NAD Conference held in early 2012-JUL. This decision raised considerable controversy because Governor Daugaard opposes same-sex marriage. He stated his beliefs concerning same-sex marriage (SSM) on his web site. In 2010 he wrote:

"I supported and voted for the constitutional amendment in 2006 that defined marriage in South Dakota as being between one man and one woman. The traditional family is the foundation of our society, and it should be protected. Although I do not support discrimination against any class of people, I also do not think that individual groups should be given special privileges or be allowed to redefine the centuries-old institution of marriage." 5

The "special privilege" to which he referred is the desire of loving, committed same-sex couples to have the same marriage rights as loving, committed opposite-sex couples. This is widely believed among social and religious conservatives to be a special privilege.

Governor Daugaard did not speak at the conference.

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Nicholas Bolger, Programs Intern for the Human Rights Campaign -- a gay positive group -- spoke about the NAD decision:


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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Bobbie Scoggins, "NAD responds to community discussion on Governor Daugaard," NAD, 2012-JUN-01, at:
  2. "Conditions of the deaf in historical times," Deaf-Info, 1996-JAN-19, at:
  3. "Signing, Alexander Graham Bell and the NAD," Public Broadcasting System, at:
  4. "NAD releases statement on marriage equality," 2012-MAY-25, at:
  5. Dennis Daugaard on civil rights," On the Issues, 2010-NOV-02, at:
  6. "The National Association of the Deaf supports marriage equality," You Tube, 2012, at:
  7. We will attempt to clear up this conflict.

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Copyright © 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance 
Originally written: 2012-JUL-22
Latest update: 2012-JUL-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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