Relationship Recognition – Continued

Highlight examples of concrete harms:

  • Effective discussions about marriage focus on how people are hurt when they’re denied the ability to marry the person they love.
    • Imagine being told that you couldn’t marry the person that you love. How would that make you feel? That’s what committed gay and lesbian couples face every day. Denying someone the chance at the happiness that comes with being married, just because they’re gay, is hurtful.
  • Lesbian and gay couples marry because they want to be there for each other in sickness and in health, in good times and bad. State and federal marriage laws provide a safety net of legal and economic protections for married couples and their children—including the ability to visit your spouse in the hospital or transfer property. This can mean the difference between being able to remain in the family home after a spouse has passed away, and losing that family home forever. ((Freedom to Marry, Inc., Marriage 101:
  • The denial of marriage is particularly harmful to African American families:
    • More than 10 percent of African American same-sex households include a partner born outside the U.S. Denying the freedom to marry to these committed same-sex couples creates another burden in navigating the U.S.’s immigration laws.
    • 21 percent of men and 10 percent of women in African American same-sex couples are military veterans. With the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and the declaration of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, the Department of Defense is still unable to treat all military families equally because some states continue to prohibit National Guard members from registering for benefits with their same-sex partners.


Civil Unions

Many of the same approaches for talking about marriage can also be helpful in talking about other forms of relationship recognition, such as domestic partnerships and civil unions. Civil unions can provide same-sex couples with important responsibilities and protections in states where marriage is not an option.

However, there are many reasons why civil unions fall short. Assigning gay and lesbian couples a separate form of relationship recognition can convey the message—to them, their children, their families, their employers, and their communities—that their love and commitment is less valid. Also, because civil unions are not recognized by all states, such agreements are not always valid when couples cross state lines.

If you are building the case for civil unions or other forms of relationship recognition in a state where marriage is not an option, it can be helpful to talk about specific protections that same-sex couples need to be able to take care of each other. Among them:

  • Hospital visitation when there has been an accident or illness
  • The ability to share earned health insurance coverage with a partner and children
  • Medical decision-making and leave to care for an ill partner
  • Parental recognition
  • Protection in case the relationship ends
  • Taxation and inheritance rights