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Union Support for Legal Marriage
by Demian
© April 25, 2008, Demian

Besides the support for legal marriage from religious organizations, which understand the spiritual and social needs for protecting same-sex couples, labor unions have been supportive as well.
       [See our articles in the Table of Contents: Religious Support for the Legal Right to Marry]

These unions understand the necessity for legal marriage because they know that it promotes fairness and supports a family’s economic well-being.

Unions that have Endorsed Legal Marriage Equality
American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE)
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU)
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
United Farm Workers (UFW)


UNITE (formerly the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees) and HERE (Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union) merged on July 8, 2004. The union represents more than 450,000 active members and more than 400,000 retirees throughout North America. UNITE HERE has a diverse membership, comprised largely of immigrants and including high percentages of African-American, Latino, and Asian-American workers. The majority of its members are women.

On March 26, 2008, UNITE HERE called for equal access to marriage in a resolution submitted by UNITE HERE general president Bruce Raynor and hospitality president John Wilhelm. It passed unanimously by its General Executive Board.

UNITE HERE - Resolution for Marriage Equality
General Executive Board, March 2008
RESOLUTION REGARDING THE CIVIL AND ECONOMIC RIGHTS OF LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER PEOPLE WHEREAS, as trade unionists, we believe that all workers are entitled to fair pay, safe working conditions, health care and equal rights free from discrimination on the basis of race, creed, gender, color, national origin or sexual orientation, and

WHEREAS, our Union has fought for economic equality and protection against discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers in our collective bargaining agreements and through political coalitions throughout the United States and Canada, and WHEREAS, our Union and the workers we represent have benefited from the active support of the LGBT communities in our struggle to raise workers and their families above the poverty line, and

WHEREAS, tens of thousands of LGBT individuals work throughout the companies and industries that our Union seeks to organize, and

WHEREAS, the Hotel Workers Rising campaign and many other UNITE HERE efforts have been embraced and strongly supported by the LGBT communities of the United States and Canada, and

WHEREAS, LGBT workers continue to face widespread discrimination, harassment and violence; and that lack of access to civil marriage deprives LGBT workers and their families of many significant rights and benefits afforded heterosexual families, including Social Security and pension benefits, hospital visitation rights, spousal health insurance, immigration rights and many other local, state and federal protections, and

WHEREAS, civil union and domestic partnership laws, however well intentioned, create an unequal legal status for same-sex couples and their families, and

WHEREAS, while members of UNITE HERE hold a variety of views, according to their personal or religious beliefs, about marriage, sexual orientation and gender identity, our commitment to the equality of all men and women under the law is a fundamental and guiding principle of our organization, and

WHEREAS, UNITE HERE opposes those who would divide and weaken workers by exploiting the issue of same-sex marriage rights, just as we oppose other efforts to divide and weaken workers,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: The General Executive Board of UNITE HERE reaffirms our Union’s commitment to full equal rights for all of our members, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

UNITE HERE will make it a collective bargaining and legislative goal to ensure that all members enjoy equal rights and benefits. We will support the rights of LGBT individuals and couples against discrimination in all areas including employment, housing and civil marriage. We will oppose policies, laws and constitutional amendments that seek to deny or overturn such rights and we will continue to welcome, respect and value LGBT workers within our Union.

American Federation of Teachers

The mission of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, is to improve the lives of our members and their families, to give voice to their legitimate professional, economic and social aspirations, to strengthen the institutions in which we work, to improve the quality of the services we provide, to bring together all members to assist and support one another and to promote democracy, human rights and freedom in our union, in our nation and throughout the world.

American Federation of Teachers - Opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment
Executive Council, October 2004
WHEREAS, throughout our country’s history, the constitutional amendment has been a tool to enshrine the rights of all Americans, and our long history of civil rights struggle has found protection in our constitutional amendments. From the abolition of slavery, set forth in the 13th Amendment, to the right of women and people over the age of 18 to vote, set forth in the 19th and 26th Amendments, the constitutional amendment has been the legal foundation on which to grant fundamental rights, not take them away; and

WHEREAS, now a constitutional amendment is being proposed that would take away the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons to enter into civil marriage. The Federal Marriage Amendment (S.J. Res. 26, H.J. Res. 56) states, “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.” If passed, the Federal Marriage Amendment would become the first constitutional amendment to restrict the rights of a certain class of Americans; and

WHEREAS, as trade unionists, we believe that our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters unequivocally deserve the same benefits as their heterosexual brothers and sisters. For that reason, trade unions have been securing ground breaking contracts that provide our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters with a patchwork of protections and benefits. We have fought vigilantly to secure the rights of these workers through explicit anti-discrimination language and pay equity through domestic partnership benefits; and

WHEREAS, the Federal Marriage Amendment would make it virtually impossible to maintain and negotiate benefits on behalf of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers. In states that have passed similar legislation, domestic partnership benefits have been challenged; and

WHEREAS, the Federal Marriage Amendment would restrict unions from offering all employees an equitable employment package. Furthermore, the Federal Marriage Amendment could invalidate thousands of union contracts that include domestic partnership benefit provisions:

RESOLVED, that the AFT stand in opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Service Employees International Union

With 1.9 million members, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is the fastest-growing union in North America. Focused on uniting workers in three sectors to improve their lives and the services they provide, SEIU is the largest health care union, including hospitals, nursing homes, and home care; the largest property services union, including building cleaning and security; and the second largest public employee union.

Service Employees International Union - Statement on Defeat of the Federal Marriage Amendment
SEIU secretary-treasurer Anna Burger, June 07, 2006
This morning the Senate reaffirmed our Constitution’s guiding principles of liberty, equality, and fairness by rejecting the mean-spirited Federal Marriage Amendment that would have made gay and lesbian families permanent second-class citizens in our society.

It’s now time for the Senate to focus on the real priorities of the American people—ensuring we have jobs that can support a family, creating affordable health coverage for every man, woman, and child, and bringing an end to the costly war in Iraq.

This amendment represents the first time in our nation’s history that the Constitution would have been amended to restrict the rights of a whole class of people. Constitutional amendments have been rare and have only been used to expand the rights of Americans, including voting rights, religious freedom, and equal protection.

SEIU members are dedicated to promoting social and economic justice for all working people and eliminating discrimination both inside and out of the workplace.

As part of that commitment, SEIU continues to be a leading voice for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, who every day confront inequality in the workplace, in our laws, and society itself.

As the first union in the country to take a stand for marriage equality, we will continue to advocate for the full rights and benefits for gay and lesbian families that their heterosexual counterparts enjoy.

We hope that now lawmakers in Washington will begin focusing on finding solutions to the real problems facing working families in America— record high gas prices, the war in Iraq, or skyrocketing health care costs—instead of spending their time seeking to discriminate against a group of Americans.

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