Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples
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Quick Facts on Legal Marriage
for Same-Sex Couples

by Demian
© May 25, 2015, Demian

Where Can We Get a Legal Marriage License?
Say: “Legal Marriage” or “Legal Marriage for Same-Sex Couples,” Not “Gay Marriage.”
What is Legal Marriage?
What About Ceremonial or Religious Marriage?
What About Common-Law Marriage?
What About Domestic Partnership Registration?
My Same-Sex Partner is Not A U.S. Citizen;
        Can We Get a Legal Marriage License, and Thereby Citizenship?

Why All the Opposition to Legal Marriage for Same-Sex Couples?
The Social Benefit to Allowing Same-sex Marriage
Which National Groups Focus on Winning Legal Marriage?
Further Information

Where Can We Get a Legal Marriage License?
As of May 2015, legal marriage for same-sex couples is available in:
      19 world governments
      32 American states or jurisdictions
      18 Native American Tribes

Please see the table below for the current governments offering legal marriage:
      Governments that Offer Legal Marriage

In the U.S., suits for legal marriage began in 1971.
      Legal Marriage Court Cases: A Timeline.

The U.S. government — which has never before had any jurisdiction regarding defining legal marriage — passed the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) in 1996, which unconstitutionally prohibited recognizing a same-sex marriage for federal purposes (taxes, job benefits, immigration, etc.) and allowed states to ignore a same-sex marriage from another state.

DoMA was ruled unconstitutional, on several counts, by federal district courts. On June 26, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court — in Windsor v. United States — declared that Section 3 of DoMA is unconstitutional.
      “Defense of Marriage Act”.


Say: “Legal Marriage” or “Legal Marriage for Same-Sex Couples,” Not “Gay Marriage.”
No one uses the term “straight marriage.” In reality, we do not know the sexual orientation of married partners. The same is true for members of same-sex couples. The marriage discrimination faced by same-sex couples is discrimination based on their apparent sex, not on their orientation.

Lesbian or gay people can get legally married — as long as they marry an opposite-sex partner. The fight is for the same access to legal marriage as all other citizen have. To call it “gay marriage” suggests a different status.


What is Legal Marriage?
Legal marriage is a state-defined contract currently available in most jurisdictions only to one man and one woman. Every state has a different set of laws — numbering from 160 to more than 250 — and the U.S. Federal system has more than 1,138 laws — which are triggered by legal marriage.

These laws interface with almost every sphere of social interaction. They treat a family as a legal unit, which is especially important during times of change, such as divorce, or during a family crisis, such as the right for a spouse to make medical decisions. Marriage laws provide the social context and understanding that married couples are full adults.

State Laws Triggered by Legal Marriage - a Sample
Assumption of Spouse’s Pension
Automatic Inheritance
Automatic Housing Lease Transfer
Bereavement Leave
Burial Determination
Certain Property Rights
Child Custody
Crime Victim’s Recovery Benefits
Divorce Protections
Domestic Violence Protection
Exemption from Property Tax on Partner’s Death
Immunity from Testifying Against Spouse
Insurance Breaks
Joint Adoption and Foster Care
Joint Bankruptcy
Joint Parenting (Insurance Coverage, School Records)
Medical Decisions on Behalf of Partner
Name Change if Desired
Reduced Rate Memberships
Sick Leave to Care for Partner
Visitation of Partner’s Children
Visitation of Partner in Hospital or Prison
Wrongful Death (Loss of Consort) Benefits
Couples married by a state government are automatically granted a broad range of rights at the federal level. These rights affect federal employees such as civil servants and the military.
Federal Laws Triggered by Legal Marriage - a Sample
Access to Military Stores
Assumption of Spouse’s Pension
Bereavement Leave
Immigration
Insurance Breaks
Medical Decisions on Behalf of Partner
Sick Leave to Care for Partner
Social Security Survivor Benefits
Sick Leave to Care for Partner
Tax Breaks for Married Couples
Veteran’s Discounts
Visitation of Partner in Hospital or Prison
For the purposes of nearly all of the above items, same-sex couples have been considered to be legal strangers, and thereby unable to be covered by them.

Although marriage contracts are governed by state law, the federal government uses marital status as the qualification for more than 1,138 federally regulated rights and responsibilities:
      U.S. Laws for Married


What About Ceremonial or Religious Marriage?
Ceremonial marriage may be officiated by church or temple officials, or anyone you choose. Many churches and synagogues marry same-sex couples. Church officials are vested to oversee signing of legal marriage documents, but they have no control over their legal content.

Ceremonial marriages, in and of themselves, involve no civil laws, and carry no legal benefits or responsibilities.


What About Common-Law Marriage?
Common law marriage is only available in a few states and has never applied to same-sex couples. It allows for some marriage law to apply to opposite-sex couples who have lived together a certain length of time.
      Common-Law Marriage States

What About Domestic Partnership Registration?
The few benefits offered with a domestic partnership registration are no substitute for the vast array of rights and responsibilities of legal marriage. Registration is a means by which some cities and states allow opposite- and same-sex couples to go on public record as a non-married couple.

Depending on the locality, registrations usually offer little-to-no benefits, yet may possibly be used to establish legal responsibility for debts after a relationship ends. Their eventual effects are largely unknown because they have little court history. Cities usually charge $35-73 to register — about the same as, or more than, a legal marriage license.

Many private employers and municipalities offer domestic partner benefits to their workers. These often depend on signing an affidavit (some ask for a city or state registration), which frequently defines the economic relationship between the employee and the employee’s partner. Like registrations, their legal status is uncertain. These affidavits and registrations could be used in court against a partner after a relationship ended.

The existance of domestic partnerships is completely due to the fight for legal marriage. While some states would not allow legal marriage, they did see the necessity for some sort of social contract, and created the concept of domestic partnership and civil unions.

For more information about registration and workplace benefits, please see Partners’:
      Domestic Partner Benefits — Philosophy and Provider List.


My Same-Sex Partner is Not A U.S. Citizen;
        Can We Get a Legal Marriage License, and Thereby Citizenship?
Yes.

Previously, the excuse to deny citizenship to a partner in a same-sex family was the (now invalidated) “DoMA” law. Now there are still bureaucratic roadblocks. It is astonishing to consider that while America has been primarily a nation of immigrants for more than 200 years, there are currently strong anti-immigrant sentiments among some sectors of society.

For information on the process for immigration, please see: Same-Sex Marriages from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services


Why All the Opposition to Legal Marriage for Same-Sex Couples?
Prejudice and hatred.

Prejudice, based on ignorance, supports hatred toward gay and lesbian people. This hatred requires that gay people remain second-class citizens, and their relationships be unrecognized on any level. This prejudice makes clear that legal marriage, or even the inferior status of domestic partnerships, should not be available for same-sex couples.

The current (November 2010) iteration of this sentiment lives in the “National Organization for Marriage,” the nation’s leading anti-gay group. While their stated mission is to stop same-sex marriage, they actively worked to defeat the passage of the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act (SB 1716) in Illinois. This bill allowed same-sex couples only to enter into a civil union.

Opposition is also generated by right-wing groups who rely on this prejudice to bring in donations. For these extremist groups, anti-gay hatred is a bread and butter issue.

Prejudice has fueled the following anti-gay arguments, each seriously flawed:

Disintegration of Marriage

Only if one believes that same-sex couples are inferior, or if one hates homosexual men and women, could one think that access to marriage by same-sex couples would somehow debase marriage.

Supporting same-sex marriage in no way renders opposite-sex marriages invalid, nor does it mock them. Opponents seem greatly disturbed that once these marriages — and homosexuals in general — are acceptable, that lesbians and gay men will (somehow) become greater in number and gain power. Some also predict it will signal the falling of the economy, the culture and the “American way of life.”

These wild accusation all falsely presume enormous powers to sexual orientation, and that same-sex couples are not fully human, not full citizens and part of America.

Contrary to a disintegration, or a debasing claim, allowing same-sex couples the same right to legal marriage actually enhances the institution of marriage. If marriage is such a great institution, it makes sense to encourage more to participate.

Tradition

Tradition does not mean forever and always. All actions that become traditions are capable of transformations which allow more inclusion, equality and freedom.

The nature of marriage traditions have radically changed throughout the centuries. In Biblical days, for instance, marriage was a brutal event — children and wives were treated like slaves and used as barter. In the very early days of the Catholic and Orthodox Church, male-male marriages were the first to get official church blessing; opposite-sex marriages came later.

Native Americans and slaves were once denied access to legal marriage. Another tradition, denial of marriage licenses to an interracial marriage, was enforced by prison terms in America by 13 states until the U.S. Supreme Court ruling of 1969.

It is now time for another change of tradition.

      [Please see: Marriage Traditions in Various Times and Cultures for information on huge variations in what constitutes a marriage.]

Religion

In America, we have a very strict separation of church and state. In spite of the desires of certain right-wing Christian evangelical groups, there is no state religion. No church can dictate state policy.

Marriage contract law is designed by states. Most opponents to same-sex marriage want their personal religion to dictate state policy.

      [Please see: Media Resources: Ceremonial Marriage for information on “Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe” by John Boswell.]

After same-sex couples can get married, what’s to prevent someone from marrying their pet turtle?

All that is being asked for is allowing two people, of any biological sex, to enter into a marriage contract. The fantasies conjured by anti-gay people, suggesting that, suddenly, marriage will be wanted by any combination of numbers of people and any combination of relationships, is a form of hysteria and possibly delusion.

Allowing equal treatment of a family of two does not even begin to fulfil the dreaded specter of this type of “slippery slope” argument.

Procreation

If the sole purpose for legal marriage was to have children, why then aren’t all sterile persons forbidden to marry? Or why do not couples, once no longer baring children, be forced to be un-married?

The reality is that no marriage is invalidated because the couple does not want children, or cannot conceive. It is two-faced to deny legal marriage to same-sex couples, many of whom already have custody of children.

Children

All studies of children raised by lesbians and gay men have found them to be well-adjusted and comparable to those raised by opposite-sex parents. No proof exists that gay people are unfit as parents.

Every major American child supporting organization endorses gay men and lesbians as worthy caretakers, legal guardians, and fit to raise children.

      [Please see: The Gay Parent: Challenging the Myths
      [Please see: Quotes: Parenting Policy Statements

Cost

Yes, there is a public sector cost to providing equal treatment. Same-sex couples would benefit in direct, financial ways by saving on health, car and other types of insurance, as well as in the areas of banking, dual parent adoptions, pensions, death and Social Security benefits, and memberships, etc.


The Social Benefit to Allowing Same-sex Marriage
The social system would save money over time, because same-sex couples would be legal responsible for each other’s welfare. Welfare or other governmental grants are harder to get if one has a legal spouse with an income.

Rather than take crowded civil court time to resolve dissolution or custody disputes, same-sex couples could use the quicker and less expensive family courts.

Families able to obtain job benefits for their partners can maintain a healthier household, which also costs society less in the long-term.


Which National Groups Focus on Winning Legal Marriage?
Your help is needed to gain full equal status. Please join these organizations and send money.

Freedom to Marry - Evan Wolfson
Freedom to Marry, Main Office, 155 West 19th St., 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10011
212-851-8418; fax 646-375-2069; evan@freedomtomarry.org
Washington, DC Office, 2120 L St. NW, #850, Washington, DC 20037
202-223-0732; fax: 202-223-0082
freedomtomarry.org
Coordinating gay and non-gay leaders.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund
120 Wall St., #1500, New York, NY 10005
212-809-8585 x228; fax 212-809-0055; general@lambdalegal.org - on marriage issues: lldefmarry@aol.com
lambdalegal.org

National LGBTQ Task Force [was National Gay and Lesbian Task Force]
1325 Massachusetts Ave. NW, #600, Washington, DC 20005
202-393-5177; fax 202-393-2241; thetaskforce@thetaskforce.org

Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples
Seattle, WA
206-935-1206; demian@buddybuddy.com
buddybuddy.com
Extensive essays, legal documents, and data on marriage.
State organizations supporting legal marriage: Freedom to Marry Affiliate Organizations




Legal Marriage Resources

Governments that offer Full Legal Marriage
Nations

    Netherlands (2001)
    Belgium (2003)
    Canada (2005)
    Spain (2005)
    South Africa (2005)
    Norway (2009)
    Sweden (2009)
    Iceland (2010)
    Argentina (2010)
    Portugal (2010)
    Denmark (2012)
    France (2013)
    New Zealand (2013)
    Brazil (2013)
    Uruguay (2013)
    New Zealand (2013)
    United Kingdom
      (England, Wales, Scotland) (2013)
    Luxembourg (2014)
    Finland (2014)
    Ireland (2015)
    United States (2015)
    Colombia (2016)
    Germany (2017)
    Taiwan (2017)
    Malta (2017)
    Australia (2017)
US States & Territories

    Massachusetts (2004)
    California (2008)
    Connecticut (2008)
    Iowa (2009)
    Vermont (2009)
    New Hampshire (2009)
    District of Columbia (2009)
    New York (2011)
    Maine (2012)
    Washington (2012)
    Maryland (2013)
    Rhode Island (2013)
    Delaware (2013)
    Minnesota (2013)
    Illinois (2013)
    Utah (2013)
    New Jersey (2013)
    Hawaii (2013)
    New Mexico (2013)
    Michigan (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Oregon (2014)
    Wisconsin (2014)
    

    Arkansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Pennsylvania (2014)
    Indiana (2014)
    Nevada (2014)
    Virginia (2014)
    Oklahoma (2014)
    Idaho (2014)
    West Virginia (2014)
    Alaska (2014)
    Arizona (2014)
    Wyoming (2014)
    Kansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
    Florida (2014)
    Colorado (2014)
    North Carolina (2014)
    South Carolina (2014)
    Montana (2014)
    Alabama (2015)
    U.S. Supreme Court (June 26, 2015):
      Ruling: All U.S. States must now
      allow same-sex couples the
      freedom of legal marriage.
Native American Tribes

    Coquille Tribe, Oregon (2009)
    Mashantucket Pequot, Connecticut (2011)
    Suquamish Tribe, Washington (2011)
    Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Washington (2013)
    Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Minnesota (2013)
    Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Michigan (2013)
    Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Michigan (2013)
    Santa Ysabel Tribe, California (2013)
    Confederated Tribes of the Colville Nation, Washington (2013)
    Cheyenne, Oklahoma (2013)
    Arapaho, Oklahoma (2013)
    Leech Lake Tribal Court, Minnesota (2013)
    Puyallup Tribe, Washington (2914)
    Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming (2014)
    Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Michigan, (2014)
    Colville Confederated Tribes, Washington (2014)
    Central Council of Tlingit, Alaska (2015)
    Haida Indian Tribes, Alaska (2015)


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