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Policy Position Short Paper

The purpose of Government is to promote freedom, order and equality. So, how is equality being promoted if same-sex couples are denied the right of marriage and all the benefits that heterosexual couples are provided? In the past, the United States’ government has shown its ability to promote equality such as with women’s rights movement, which included the right to vote, equal pay, etc., and the 1967 case of Loving v. Virginia in which the Supreme Court ruled that laws prohibiting interracial couples from marriage were unconstitutional. The United States is also involved in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which bans discrimination based on sex, yet there is still the pressing issue of same-sex marriage. As Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy from Massachusetts once said, “America will not be America until we free ourselves of discrimination and bigotry.” (Schiavone 1996)

In 1996, the House of Representatives passed the Defense of Marriage Act. It was voted in by the Senate 85-14 (Bierbauer 1996). The passing of the Defense of Marriage Act did two things. The first section states that “no State shall be required to give effect to a law of any other State with respect to a same-sex marriage.” The second section defines the words “marriage” and “spouse.” It amends the U.S. Code by saying that “marriage is the legal union of a man and a woman as husband and wife, and a spouse is a husband or wife of the opposite sex.” This led to many federal marriage benefits being denied to gay couples, such as Social Security, tax breaks, and Medicare.

Currently, the largest issue at hand is the Federal Anti-Marriage Amendment. If passed, it would define marriage as the union of a man and a woman and deny gays of more than 1,100 federal rights and benefits, plus any state rights and benefits. It would also be the first time in the history of the United States that the American constitution would be amended to exclude and discriminate against a group of people. The American constitution has only been amended 17 times in the past 200 years and only to grant more rights to its citizens, except for Amendment 18 (prohibition of intoxicating liquors).

“Marriage has a significant religious meaning for many people but it is also a legal contract” (HRC 2004, 8). It is strictly the legal, not religious, definition of marriage that is being debated now. By granting marriage rights to same-sex couples, the government would still allow religions to make their own judgments about same-sex marriage. However, there are already some religious communities that accept same-sex unions such as the Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalist Association and the Presbyterian Church. Yet, some still feel that allowing same-sex marriage would weaken the marriage institution. “But in reality, opening marriage to couples who are willing to fight for it could only strengthen the institution for all. It would open the doors to more supporters, not opponents. And it would help keep the age-old institution alive” (HRC 2004, 13). It has already been proven in the past that institutions that account for change based on the needs of the population are more successful, such as the allowance of African Americans and women into the U.S military and American universities.

There are three forms of same-sex relationships that the government can recognize, a marriage, a civil union, and a domestic partnership. Marriage would entitle full equality with all the rights and benefits that a heterosexual marriage is given. “Marriage aims to promote healthy families, protecting the economic and emotional interdependence of family members and giving priority to their bonds. Legal protection of partner relationships can increase a couple's ability to care for each other and provides families security and peace of mind…” (NTF 2004). If recognized by the federal government, marriage would also be recognized by the states’ government. Marriage provides over 1100 federal rights and benefits plus several others depending on the state. “Married couples have the automatic right to visit each other in the hospital and make medical decisions” (HRC 2004, 4). Not only that, but married workers can legally, under federal law, leave their job to care for their ill spouse at an unpaid rate without losing their jobs. Many employers, both public and private, provide medical coverage for their employee’s spouse. However, most employers currently do not offer coverage for same-sex partners. A married person also can receive Social Security payments at the time of their spouse’s death. They also automatically inherit all the property of the spouse without paying estate taxes. “A married person can roll a deceased spouse’s 401(k) funds into an IRA without paying taxes, a gay or lesbian American who inherits a 401(k) can end up paying up to 70% of it in taxes and penalties” (HRC 2004, 5).

Civil Unions are not full equality. They are separate and unequal, and history has shown, such as with the Civil Rights Movement, that this will not work! They receive no federal recognition and are not even recognized from state to state. Some of the rights and benefits that marriage has, which civil unions do not, are federal tax benefits, Social Security benefits, and medical care benefits such as taking a leave of absence to care for an ill partner. However, civil unions do retain some legal protections and rights under state laws. Civil Unions, like marriage, are also completely independent from religious institutions.

Domestic Partnerships offer even less than civil unions. They are generally only limited employment related benefits. Domestic Partnerships are not recognized by the federal government and are only recognized by 3 states. Only Hawaii, California and New Jersey give any benefits to domestic partnerships, and even then they are quite varied from state to state. Currently, 75% of the Fortune 500 companies have included sexual oriented non-discriminatory policies, and over 40% of the Fortune 500 companies offer domestic partnership benefits.

Around the United States, there are currently 18 states that have passed a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, with Kansas being the most recent on April 7th, 2005. In Georgia this past November, a state constitutional amendment was passed which bans same-sex marriage and denies same-sex couples from over 500 rights and benefits that the state has to offer to married couples. Georgia also does not offer any recognition to civil unions or domestic partnerships. Georgia’s Anti-Discriminatory laws and Hate Crime laws do not include anything about sexual orientation. On April 7th 2005, Connecticut became the first state to grant civil unions without pressure from the courts. Vermont is the only other state which provides civil unions, but this initiative was due to pressure from the courts after lawsuits were filed by same-sex couples in 2000. There is only one state which provides same-sex marriage, Massachusetts, and it too only began after pressure from the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. It began issuing marriage licenses on May 17, 2004. However, same-sex married couples are still denied federal rights and must still complete independent federal income tax forms, but are able to complete legal state paperwork as a married couple. Recently, the county of Multnomah, Oregon voided over 3,000 marriage licenses it had granted since last April as the state found it to be out of the county’s jurisdiction to grant such licenses.

Around the world many countries have recognized same-sex relationships. However, instead of civil unions they are known as Registered Partnerships. Denmark became the first country to recognize a registered partnership in 1989. Spain and Italy currently offer domestic partnerships benefits. Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Greenland Denmark and France offer registered partnerships. On April 1, 2001, the Netherlands became the first country to offer same-sex marriage with all equal rights as opposite-sex marriage. Since then, Belgium, Canada, Hungary and Iceland have also offered same-sex marriage.

Homosexuality is not a choice, studies have shown this, and I know this from actual life experience!! This is the way some people are born, they have no choice in it, just like some people are born white or black. Homosexuals deserve the same rights as any other American citizen and the United States government should ensure that homosexuals are treated the same as heterosexuals with all the same rights. This is, after all, the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, the supposed best country in the world yet there are other countries in which their citizens have more rights and same-sex couples are able to marry. What ever happened to “all men are created equal” and “the pursuit of happiness” and “justice for all”?

Work Cited Page

Bierbauer, Charles “Anti gay marriage act clears Congress” [web page] September 1996; [Accessed 15 Feb 2005].

Schiavon, Louise “Amendments tie up anti gay-marriage bill” [web page] September 1996; [Accessed 15 Feb 2005].

Human Rights Campaign 2004 “Answers to Questions About Marriage Equality” Human Rights Campaign’s FamilyNet Project: 1-26.

“"Defense Of Marriage Act" 5/96 H.R. 3396 Summary/Analysis” [web page] May 1996; [Accessed 15 Feb 2005].

“The Impact of Marriage for Same-Sex Couples and Proposed Constitutional Changes on Corporate America” [web page] 2004;
Menu/Work_Life/Get_Informed2/Marriage_and_Your_Workplace/TalkingPoints1/Marriage_for_Same-Sex_Couples_and_Corporate_America.htm [Accessed 15 Feb 2005].

“Non-Discrimination in Civil Marriage: Perspectives from International Human Rights Law and Practice” [web page] 2004; [Accessed 15 Feb 2005].

“Conservative and GOP Quotes on Constitutional Amendment” [web page] March 2004; [Accessed 15 Feb 2005].

“Connecticut Senate approves civil unions bill” [web page] April 2005; [Accessed 18 April 2005].

“Oregon court voids same-sex marriage licenses” [web page] April 2005; [Accessed 18 April 2005].

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force [web page] April 2005; [Accessed 18 April 2005].

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