In deference to the gay rights movement1 of the last century and a half, the last decade has shown the most movement and promise in providing the same civil rights to the LGBT community that is enjoyed by the traditional marriage community.
The fight for gay rights is organized and effective, having enlisted the ACLU (the LGBT Project) as the tip of the spear. The strategy of the movement appears to be an attack in stages, depending upon the “lay-of-the-land” in each State. The toolbox includes:
- efforts to promote domestic partnership protections as a first step towards the full recognition and complete protections offered only by traditional marriage
- activist involvement in public opinion and voter preferences (Ballot Box)
- lobbying State Legislatures to change anti-gay laws on the books (State Legislatures)
- bring lawsuits against laws denying gay rights (The Courts)
1 We use the term “gay” for brevity, and mean it to include LGBT persons where appropriate.
Progress of the LGBT-Gay Rights Movement
19 States have ended discrimination against same-sex marriage:
- By Court Decision (7): California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, New Mexico, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia
- By State Legislature (8): Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire,, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont
- By Popular Vote (3): Maine, Maryland, Washington State
32 States ban same-sex marriage: 25 by Constitutional Amendment and State Law, 3 by Constitutional Amendment only, and 4 by State Law only. Anti-gay, anti-marriage laws are embedded in 29 States. North Carolina announced on 7/28/14 that it would no longer defend its constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, opening the door for the ban being overturned.
As this article is published (5/2014), Ohio Judge Timothy Black recently struck down a part of the State’s gay marriage ban, and has ruled that the State’s refusal to recognize valid same-sex marriages violates constitutional protections. He promised to issue a permanent injunction barring the State from denying the rights and benefits of traditional marriage to same-sex couples who were validly married elsewhere.
A 2009 Iowa court ruling is regarded as the gay-marriage harbinger of things to come, when all seven Iowa Supreme Court judges affirmed a lower court ruling striking down the State’s gay marriage ban. Iowa was the third State to allow same-sex couples to marry and the first State in the Midwest to do so. This decision acted as a springboard to elevate the issue into the national conversation. Notable was the unanimous nature of the decision.
In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that previously denied same-sex couples federal benefits.
Goals of same-sex advocates include:
- to own property together without the worry of what will happen to the property upon death
- to be able to file taxes as married
- to be recognized as spouses (or next of kin) in medical situations (hospitals, doctors, decision-making)
- to interact financially with their partners in the same manner than opposite-sex couples do
- to participate and be beneficiaries in the retirement choices and results of each other
- to be listed on their children’s birth certificates
- to have same-sex partners be recognized on death certificates
Arguments for same-sex marriage
- Gay marriage is a matter of basic civil and equal rights – Gender is irrelevant to civil rights. It will provide basic civil and equal rights dignity. Gay couples should be respected. Provides gays an equal opportunity to participate fully in civil society makes the society as a whole better. Their position is that they should have the freedom to build the kinds of personal, intimate relationships most meaningful to them without risking that their families will be disregarded or harmed by the state
- Same-sex couples will be better off – a legal marriage roots them in a legal and social relationship which allows gays to be there for each other economically, emotionally, and psychologically. Secure relationships tend to thrive when the rights of marriages are extended. Rights and privileges conferred to married couples help spouses support each other
- Individuals of same-sex marriages are inclined to be better off – people who marry tend to thrive more in a marital setting. A lifestyle improved emotionally, financially and medically enhances their lives, their family’s lives and the communities in which they live
- Families with Gay members experience a richer life – when medical issues arise, the extended families of gays tend to be called on for support and decision-making. In traditional marriages those actions tend to fall to one’s marital partner. Gays get excluded from being the primary care-giver and decision-maker for their partner
- Children of Gay couples will benefit – Gays are currently bearing children, adopting and raising kids in what they describe as loving homes, providing many children with nurturing that they otherwise might not receive. A married gay couple can provide parenting and decision making better as a legally married couple rather than one partner being the legal parent
- Communities with Gay couples will benefit – married partners are better equipped to support their other legally, emotionally and financially, which benefits the overall community by doing for the partners what the community might be called on to do
- Same-sex marriage could benefit marriage overall – with the decline of importance in traditional marriage, same-sex marriage can shore up its importance in society
- Transition from civil union to legal marriage will elevate society – civil unions are okay, but they fail to grant the responsibilities that come with marriage, fall short emotionally, and only confer limited benefits. Same-sex marriage marriage will actually strengthen marriage and become a stabilizing force in society. Marriage allows partners to make important medical, financial and emotional decisions for each other.
It appears the gay rights movement has a significant head of steam going forward. More judges are ruling in their favor, opinion polls show a majority now favor extending gay rights (especially among millennials) and the opinions in the general population on homosexuality appear to be more and more accepting. The proverbial handwriting is on the wall.
Arguments against same-sex marriage
- There’s no point to gay marriage when other laws could resolve property and legal issues – opponents to same-sex marriages suggest that if they gays get the same legal protections that come with traditional marriage, why must they marry?
- Marriage is for raising children – proponents offer that since they cannot have children, they don’t need to legitimize the marriage like opposite-sex partners do
- Marriage is between a man and a woman, or it should be – proponents claim that the Bible and God have spelled out in clear terms what is acceptable and not
- Same-sex marriage will dilute or water-down traditional marriage – traditional marriage has declined in importance in this society and same-sex marriage will hasten its decline
- Gay marriage is unnatural and unnatural marriages are forbidden – this is probably rooted in religious beliefs, that the Bible calls all but hetero relationships unnatural
Ending same-sex marriage, domestic partnerships or civil unions can be tricky business. We list some suggestions on what to consider:
- find a local lawyer familiar with ending a gay marriage or domestic partnership
- if you have registered your relationship in a state other than your home state, you should unregister that union. You could be financially and legally bound to your partner if you fail to do so. Of course you should unregister in your home state as well. if either of you die before unregistering, the surviving partner could have a claim against the decedent’s estate
- if you were married in another state, you should go through the same process opposite-sex partners do when they divorce. Ask the court to dissolve any other state registrations. If you live in a State that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, and went elsewhere to marry, your local divorce court may not be willing to divorce you. That means traveling back to the State that you married in to get a divorce. You must establish residency first (often 6 months living there – rent a place, pay utilities online, etc. – You know, set up an address and leave for the time period.
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