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Equal Marriage
Resolutions and Talking Points

by National Organization for Women
© 2004, NOW

The National Organization for Women (NOW) made its official support for same-sex marriage in 1995. At their national conference in 2004, NOW made two major commitments in support of legal marriage.

First to participate with amicus briefs on state and national levels.
Secondly, to implement leadership speaker training sessions, conduct a pro-active media campaign, and to conduct an aggressive candidate and incumbent education campaign.

Here are the support resolutions, followed by “Talking Points” that may be used in educational efforts.

The Resolutions

Marriage Equality Litigation Campaign 2004
WHEREAS, the National Organization for Women is committed to full equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Intersex people; and

WHEREAS, marriage equality is a fundamental right and civil unions do not provide the same benefits and rights as marriage;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Organization for Women urges NOW Foundation to participate in a litigation campaign immediately following this conference in which the Foundation would:

(1) sign on to amicus briefs supporting full marriage equality at the state level and

(2) seek the assistance of lawyers to represent the Foundation on a pro bono basis to author amicus briefs in support of full marriage equality at the state and national levels.

Marriage Equality Education Campaign 2004
WHEREAS, the National Organization for Women is committed to full equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Intersex people; and

WHEREAS, marriage equality is a fundamental right and civil unions do not provide the same benefits and rights as marriage;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Organization for Women conduct a campaign, the first phase of which would begin immediately following this conference through the November 2004 elections, that would;
Implement leadership speaker training sessions on the issue of marriage equality.
Develop a list of speakers to encourage debate and education on this issue within NOW and outside of NOW.
Conduct a pro-active media campaign on this issue. Develop action kits and products.

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the National Organization for Women urge the NOW PACs to use NOW’s Marriage Equality Education Campaign to conduct an aggressive candidate and incumbent education campaign to advance the movement toward same-sex marriage and by helping such candidates formulate appropriate language in discussing this issue.

Taking Points

Some of these talking points are similar in meaning, but phrased differently. Select the arguments that are most likely to persuade your audience:

  • The struggle for equal marriage rights is a feminist issue. Women will not achieve full equality until every woman can pursue her dreams free from discrimination. NOW made its support for same-sex marriage official in 1995, saying that the choice of marriage is a fundamental constitutional right under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment that should not be denied because of a person’s sexual orientation.
  • The right to the protections and responsibilities of civil marriage is a right everyone should have.
  • The right to marry has been recognized by the Supreme Court as a fundamental right under the United States Constitution.
  • Government has no business intruding in our personal lives. A Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages would write discrimination into the Constitution.
  • It was once illegal in many states for people of different races to marry. Just as we ended legal discrimination based on race, we should end discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people.
  • Lesbian and gay couples want to marry for the same reasons as heterosexual couples. No good reason exists for excluding same-sex couples from the protections and responsibilities of marriage.
  • Allowing same-sex couples to marry will make it easier for them to have the sale legal rights and protections, like hospital visitation and insurance benefits, as other married couples.
  • Allowing lesbian and gay couples to marry will provide a clear way to deal with wills, child custody and support agreements and other legal arrangements involving same-sex couples.
  • Civil marriage will give same-sex couples the same economic security, protections and peace of mind in old age that are enjoyed by heterosexual married couples.
  • The Federal Marriage Amendment would ban any protections under the law for same-sex couples. The amendment goes much farther than simply defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. This is a harsh, discriminatory measure that would prevent same-sex couples who have made commitments to each other from having any basic rights and protections under the law.
  • All couples, lesbian and gay and heterosexual, deserve the legal protections afforded by marriage. Currently, same-sex couples in committed relationships are likely to pay higher taxes than married couples. They receive no Social Security survivor benefits upon the death of a partner despite paying payroll taxes. They are denied healthcare, disability, military and other benefits afforded to heterosexual couples. Without a will, they often pay estate taxes when a partner dies, including significant tax penalties when they inherit a 401K pension plan from a partner. They are denied family leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Lesbian and gay couples who chose to be married would be making a legal commitment to one another and should receive the same legal rights and protections of marriage that heterosexual couples receive.
  • Legal contracts and agreements are no substitute for marriage for heterosexual people and they are no substitute for same-sex couples either.
  • Without legal protections, benefits and responsibilities associated with civil marriage, same-sex couples suffer numerous obstacles and hardships.
  • Children of same-sex couples are penalized by marriage discrimination. More than 1 million children are currently being raised by same-sex couples in the United States, according to the 2000 census. Many lesbian and gay parents, however, are unable to assume full legal parenting rights and responsibilities, and in most states, there is no law guaranteeing a non-custodial, biological or adoptive parent’s visitation rights or requiring child support from such a parent. Without the ability to establish a legal relationship to both parents, these children are left without protections such as Social Security survivor benefits.
  • Children benefit from legal marriage. One thing that both sides of the marriage issue can agree on is that marriage strengthens families — children are more secure if they are raised by two loving parents who have a legal relationship with them and can share the responsibility of parenthood equally as well as gaining the cultural acceptance of legal marriage.
  • The issue of marriage equality is also an issue of religious freedom. The struggle for same-sex marriage is about legal rights — it does not demand that any church perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. However, the government fails to ensure religious freedom when it refuses to honor the unions of same-sex couples performed by one religion in the same way it honors those of opposite-sex couples.
  • Civil marriage for gays and lesbians affirms all marriage. Marriage is about love and commitment.
  • Civil unions and domestic partnerships are no substitute for civil marriage. Though an important advance in the fight for equality, civil unions and domestic partnerships do not carry the full legal benefits (especially government and tax benefits) or cultural significance of marriage. The substitution of civil unions for legal marriage assigns same-sex couples to second class status — separate and unequal.
  • Allowing lesbian and gay couples to get legally married does not threaten nor take away rights from married heterosexual couples.
  • Allowing same-sex couples to marry will help create stable homes and provide important protections for their children.
  • Prohibiting civil marriage for same-sex couples is discrimination, plain and simple.
  • With changing norms and cultural diversity, our society is changing quickly and the definition of a family has to change with the times to recognize lesbian and gay families.
  • Allowing same-sex couples to marry shows our commitment to diversity, equality, tolerance and respect.
  • Allowing same-sex couples civil marriage rights opens up marriage to more people and does not redefine religious marriage in our society.
  • Separate is not equal. Marriage equality is a fundamental right. Same-sex couples cannot participate fully in our society if they are denied the legal rights and cultural privileges offered to heterosexual couples through marriage.
  • Right-wing propagandists are attempting to write discrimination and bigotry into the U.S. Constitution to prevent equal marriage rights. The divisive Federal Marriage Amendment introduce in the House of Representative and in the United States Senate and supported by George W. Bush is an attempt to amend the Constitution to deny rights to lesbians and gays by saying that “marriage shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman.” Throughout history, the U.S. Constitution has been used to ensure, protect and expand the individual liberties of all people in the United States. The FMA would restrict rights, not expand them.
  • Religious groups do not have to recognize civil marriages. Churches and other religious institutions would not have to recognize or perform ceremonies for these marriages. Some religious groups recognize lesbian and gay couples and others do not — government should not interfere with religion or impose one religion’s beliefs on people who hold different beliefs.
  • The anti-gay amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the States’ Constitution are intended to define marriage as the “union between a man and a woman” and designed to deny same-sex couples any legal protections.
  • The Federal Marriage Amendment would write discrimination in the Constitution. The U.S. Constitution was written to protect and ensure equal treatment for ALL. This amendment would destroy that equality by rewriting the Constitution to treat one group of people different from others. Since the Bill of Rights was passed, there have been only 17 amendments to the Constitution, and these amendments have expanded people’s rights — such as giving African-Americans and women the right to vote. The Federal Marriage Amendment would be the first time in history that the Constitution was amended to restrict the rights of a group of people.
  • The Federal Marriage Amendment would define marriage as the union of a man and a woman and deny any legal protections to gay and lesbian couples such as the right to visit a sick or injured partner in the hospital.

Questions to Ask Those Who Oppose Equal Protection
for Lesbian and Gay Couples
  • Why shouldn’t lesbian and gay people get the same protections under the law as heterosexual people?
  • What’s wrong with giving lesbian and gay couples in loving, committed relationships the same protections under the law as heterosexual couples?
  • Why shouldn’t a lesbian or gay person in a committed relationship be able to visit his or her partner in the hospital?
  • How fair is it that lesbians and gay people who pay into the Social Security system their entire working lives don’t get the same Social Security survivor benefits as their coworkers?

© 1995-2004, National Organization for Women
All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from NOW.
                Talking Points:

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