The Current State of the Struggle for Equal Civil Marriage Rights

The proposed anti-gay, anti-family Federal Marriage Amendment reads: “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.”

SOULFORCE RESOURCES

FMA DEFEATED! – Soulforce Applauds U.S. Senate for Rejecting the anti-family Federal Marriage Amendment – July 14, 2004 Press Release

Soulforce Letter to Congress Opposing the Proposed Federal Marriage Amendment – June 22, 2004

Soulforce People of Faith Petition against the "so-called" Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) (pdf version)

Soulforce TALKING POINTS on defining and obtaining equal civil marriage rights and defeating the anti-gay, anti-family federal "marriage" amendment (Click here for PDF file)

Media Message Points (pdf) – Soulforce’s four main message points regarding civil marriage and the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment

Community Action Plan (pdf) for educating and advocating for equal civil marriage rights in your community and beyond

Bulletin Insert for your local Congregation (pdf)

Soulforce Action Alert (11/21/03) – WHAT YOU CAN DO! Click here for pdf file

Sample Letter to Congress People Opposing the FMA Find and email your Congress people

Sample Letter to the Editor

Soulforce Alert on the Threat and Tragic Consequences of the FMA

Soulforce Policy Statement on Civil Marriage, August 1, 2003 (Click here for pdf)

Soulforce Flyer on the "so-called" Federal Marriage Amendment (pdf) (please download pdf, make copies, and distribute widely!)

A Soulforce Background Paper (Including a sample list of the rights and protections denied same-gender couples)

Religious Support for Equal Marriage Rights Brochure (pdf): Pdf file provided for printing on 2 pages of Legal Size paper (8 1/2 x 14)

Dos and Donts of Religious Organizing (pdf) – Which political activities are allowed and which are not

OTHER RESOURCES

Intersexuality and the Marriage Debate: "Bodies Like Ours" oped written by Betsy Driver

"God is Still Speaking, About Marriage," a package of educational resources designed to help congregations understand and talk about this issue.

Marriage Brochure from Interfaith Working Group on Religious Support for Equal Civil Marriage Rights

Sermon on Equal Marriage Rights by Don Southworth, Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation (of Atlanta)

LINKS TO OTHER ORGANIZATIONS

Civil Marriage Resources from GLAAD

DontAmend.com

Freedomtomarry.org

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund

Gay and Lesbian Advocate and Defenders (Great Resource for Information on Massachusetts marriage decision)

Intersexuality and the Marriage Debate

Other Resources:

  1. New York To Recognize Gay Partnerships

  2. Canada to open same-sex marriage issue to debate

  3. Dutch Government OK’s Same-Gender Marriage

  4. Good News: In Philadelphia Life Partnership is Official

  5. More Employers Weigh Domestic Partner Benefits

  6. An Ancient and Historic Reminder When Marriage Between Gays Was By Rite

  7. Why "Civil Union" Isn’t Marriage

  8. In Defense of Marriage Act and The Great Commandment

  9. Dutch Gay Marriage Stats Released

  10. California Approves Domestic Partnerships
    Californians Get The Official Form Here
    http://www.ss.ca.gov/business/sf/forms/sf-dp1.pdf

For the most up-to-date information link to:www.lldef.org
The Marriage Project of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.


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NEW YORK TO RECOGNIZE GAY PARTNERSHIPS

by Beth Shapiro
365Gay.com Newscenter in New York
Posted: August 16, 2002
12:19 a.m. EDT/+5GMT/-3PDT

(New York City) Civil Unions, legal in other jurisdictions, now will be legal in New York City. Under legislation passed Thursday, New York has become the first area in the US, outside Vermont and California, to recognize gay and lesbian partnership unions.

Vermont is still the only state in the United States in which gay civil unions are legal. A partner registry has been created in California. Similar registries exist in Nova Scotia and Quebec, and in England and Germany. But, Holland is the only country which currently allows gays and lesbians full marriage rights.

The move, by New York means that city residents who travel outside the state to be united will have the union recognized at home. It also allows couples who have had civil unions to retain their status if they move to or visit New York.

If one of the pair were hospitalized, for example, the partner would be treated as a spouse for visiting purposes.

But, the law does not create a separate registry in New York, nor does it permit civil union ceremonies to be legally performed in the city. It is, however, a small step forward, gay rights advocates say.

Councilman Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) objected strenuously to the legislation, which passed by a vote of 34 in favour, 7 against and 4 abstentions.

Felder, an Orthodox Jew, said he objected to the use of the word “marriage” several times in the debate and said was against gay marriages on moral grounds.


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CANADA TO OPEN SAME-SEX MARRIAGE ISSUE TO DEBATE

OTTAWA (Reuters) – The Canadian government, stung by a court decision that ordered it to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples, will set up a parliamentary committee to ask the public what it thinks of the idea.

"It’s a question of law but it is a very important question of social issue," Justice Minister Martin Cauchon said after a cabinet meeting Wednesday. "The government is very much open-minded to having an open discussion with Canadians, and of course within the Liberal (Party) family as well."

Last week, Ottawa said it would appeal an Ontario lower court ruling that said the traditional definition of marriage — the union between a man and a woman — was unconstitutional in excluding gays.

The court gave the federal and Ontario provincial governments two years to change their laws in a ruling welcomed by gay activists but condemned by conservative groups.

In its decision to appeal, the government said there was no consensus that homosexuals should be allowed to marry.

"Proceeding with the appeal keeps all the options open for the government, thereby respecting the consultation process," Cauchon said Wednesday.

The justice minister said his department would present a discussion paper to kick-start the consultations in September, outlining some of the possible policy directions.

Parliament overhauled 68 federal statutes in 2000 to erase most legal differences between heterosexual and homosexual couples. But the government pointedly drew the line at changing the definition of marriage.

08/07/02 16:54 ET

Copyright 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.


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A SOULFORCE BACKGROUND PAPER

INCLUDING A SAMPLE LIST OF THE RIGHTS AND PROTECTIONS DENIED LESBIAN AND GAY COUPLES

Millions of our fellow Americans are confused and misinformed in the belief that marriage is an institution for mixed-gender couples only. In fact, same-gender marriage is an ancient and honorable tradition, practiced now as it has been practiced for more than 1,000 years. (See article that follows on John Boswell’s Same Sex Unions In Pre-Modern Europe).

Twenty-eight years ago, the Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, conducted his first same-gender wedding ceremony in his home in Los Angeles, California. And though same-gender marriage had no legal standing then (as it has no legal standing now) from that day, UFMCC clergy have performed the rite of holy union for lesbian and gay congregants who want their relationship to be blessed by God and honored by their community of faith.

Nothing the President, the Congress, or the Courts can decide will stop lesbian and gay Americans from falling in love and getting married. Oscar Hammerstein said it best: "Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. You can’t have one without the other."

Already, millions of lesbian and gay Americans live together as married couples, in loving, committed, long-term relationships. Every year, thousands of new same-gender marriages are being performed (overtly and covertly) not just by UFMCC clergy, but by enlightened and courageous Protestant, Jewish, and even Catholic ministers and priests as well. We have that rite and will continue to celebrate it, even in the face of bigotry and discrimination.

The question, therefore, is not whether national and state laws oppose the rite of same-gender marriage. The question is whether the Congress and the courts will grant lesbian and gay couples the same 1,047 legal rights and protections obtained automatically by mixed-genders who marry.

Gay and lesbian couples may not be admitted into an emergency ward to see their partners because they are not legally the next of kin. They don’t have the right to share tax returns, pensions, or government benefits like Social Security. They can’t share parental custody, join property, health insurance, or automatic inheritance rights. They can’t make medical decisions if their partner becomes disabled. Even their wills and Powers of Attorney can be set aside by judges who refuse to recognize their long-term relationships.

Lesbian and gay couples are married in the eyes of God and in the eyes of their supportive friends and family; and yet these same couples are denied 1,047 federal and state rights and protections that go automatically with mixed-gender marriage. This is just a small sample of the rights that outlawing same-gender marriage will deny us:

  • Automatic Inheritance
  • Assumption of Spouse’s Pension
  • Bereavement Leave
  • Burial Determination
  • Child Custody
  • Divorce Protections
  • Domestic Violence Protection
  • Exemption from Property Tax on Partner’s Death
  • Immigration Rights for Foreign Spouse
  • Insurance Breaks
  • Joint Adoption and Foster Care
  • Joint Bankruptcy
  • Joint Parenting (Insurance Coverage, School Records)
  • Medical Decision on Behalf of Partner
  • Various Property Rights
  • Reduced Rate Memberships
  • Sick Leave to Care for Partner
  • Social Security Survivor Benefits
  • Tax Breaks
  • Visitation of Partner’s Children
  • Visitation of Partner in Hospital or Prison
  • Wrongful Death Benefits

How many times unsupportive parents have misused the law to cut off one partner from the love and comfort of another in his or her greatest hour of need. How many times surviving parents have been awarded child custody instead of the surviving gay or lesbian parent or have been given prized possession a couple has earned together.

This debate is not about marriage. It is about the immoral and unconstitutional practice of withholding those legal rights from millions of law-abiding, tax-paying Americans on the basis of sexual orientation alone.


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DUTCH GOVERNMENT OK’S MARRIAGE

Same-gender couples will soon be able to marry in the Netherlands, now that the cabinet is as ready to march down the aisle as the Parliament has been for months.

"Civil marriage will be made available to people of the same sex," said a statement issued by the Netherlands’ cabinet December 11, according to a Reuters report. Although the Parliament will have to give its approval, it’s been ready to do so for months, while the government has cautiously applied the brakes.

The registered partnerships which are already in place in the Netherlands will be convertible to marriages when the law is in place. When a measure opening adoptions to same-gender couples now pending before the Netherlands’ Parliament passes as expected, the domestic partnerships there will already be the strongest in the world, even before full civil marriages are available.

Registered partnerships equivalent to civil marriage except for adoption rights are currently in place in Denmark, Greenland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland. As a result of court rulings rather than legislation, Belgium and Hungary recognize same-gender couples’ inheritance rights, and Israel recognizes couples for survivor benefits.

France’s Senate will soon be taking up the hotly-contested domestic partnership bill which the Assembly approved this week, and Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies was also expected to vote on a similar measure this week. Germany’s new Socialist-led government has promised increased recognition of same-gender couples there.


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GOOD NEWS: IN PHILADELPHIA LIFE PARTNERSHIP IS OFFICIAL

THE CITY GAVE DOCUMENTS TO 30 GAY COUPLES IN CEREMONY.
By Julie Stoiber
Inquirer Staff Writer
www.phillynews.com

They met on a bus in Washington, one riding to work, the other to art school. The attraction was instantaneous. Swaying side by side in the aisle, they cobbled together a conversation, one speaking English, the other Portuguese.

A few stops later, when they parted, one carried a quickly scribbled phone number.

Thirty years later, they are still side by side, still preferring each other’s company to anyone else’s.

And now, the relationship between Link Harper and Jonas dos Santos is "official." Last night, in a milestone ceremony for Harper, dos Santos and others in Philadelphia’s gay community, same-gender relationships were recognized for the first time by the city as "life partnerships" and endowed with benefits once reserved for married couples. "It’s such an accomplishment," said Harper, a photographer in the City’s Department of Records.

Though they didn’t need a city document to affirm their partnership, "it gives an incredible sense of pride," said dos Santos, an artist. For a decade, City Council had debated, and ultimately defeated, legislation that would give official recognition of gay relationships. But last spring, following a long and anguished discussion, and over the objections of Council President John F. Street, Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua and other powerful foes, Council passed three controversial domestic partnership bills.

Last night, in a ceremony in the Mayor’s Reception Room, 30 couples — some carrying bouquets, all smiling broadly for the cameras — received their certificates. As their names were called, they walked to the front of the room.

Many were holding hands; Mary Louise Cervone and Kathleen Burke were holding their 2-year-old son, Danny. A standing ovation greeted Charles Rudolph and David Kloss, who have been together 35 years. The document means city workers can add their partners to their city-paid health insurance policies — saving them hundreds of dollars a month in premiums — and name them as beneficiaries for city pensions. For all gay couples in the city, life partner status means an exemption from the city’s 3 percent real estate transfer tax if they sell each other property. Couples also can use the life-partner document when applying for insurance, joint bank accounts and joint credit cards.

"You can get those things now, but this may make it easier," said Kevin E. Vaughan, executive director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, which is overseeing domestic partnership registration. Couples who break up must sign a notarized "termination statement" and file it with the commission. Compared to other large cities, Philadelphia was slow to pass domestic partnership legislation: Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Seattle and Washington already had laws on the books. Many corporations — including IBM, Levi Strauss and Bell Atlantic — provided such benefits. And some Philadelphia city workers had them, too — 500 non-union employees, by Mayor Rendell’s order, and 4,100 members of District Council 47 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

But the rest of the city’s 23,000 workers did not. The significance of the domestic partnership legislation goes beyond the merely practical, though. For many, it’s all about symbolism.

"These are people, in many cases, who have been in relationships for many years, and yet they have never had official recognition of their family lives by a public entity," Vaughan said.

Judy Kramer, a medical photographer, and her partner, Dale Ralston, a physician’s assistant, won’t receive any tangible benefits from life partner status, except the satisfaction of having their relationship publicly affirmed.

"We’ve been together 23 years, and basically there’s nothing to show for it, no public acknowledgment," Kramer said. "It may help change some attitudes in the general public."

The human relations office has received more than 100 calls requesting domestic partnership registration packets, Vaughan said.

Harper and dos Santos dressed up for the event, in matching custom-made sport coats from Portugal.

The partnership ceremony reminded dos Santos, a native of Brazil, of the day he became a U.S. citizen. "Very special," he said.

The couple planned to celebrate with a quiet dinner at home afterward. Dos Santos loves to cook, but because of work and the ceremony, dinner would probably be takeout from their favorite Vietnamese restaurant.

Their rowhouse just north of Northern Liberties is full of unusual art and the warm, sweet smell of incense. There’s a homey quilt on the bed in their guest room, a vase of pale pink roses on the kitchen table, and a heavenly courtyard out back, lush with ivy and red impatiens. It’s a good life, they say, harmonious and balanced, rich with love.

"It’s not husband and wife, it is two males living and loving one another," dos Santos said in an interview the day before the ceremony.

"It isn’t role-playing," added Harper.

"It’s a communion," dos Santos said. "It’s really powerful."

They have never hidden their relationship. Their families accepted it — dos Santos refers to Harper’s father and stepmother as "my in-laws" — and so have their co-workers and friends.

Like Kramer, they hope City Council’s willingness to recognize relationships like theirs might change some negative stereotypes of gay life.

"The domestic partnership bill is giving validation to two people who can live together, who can contribute to society, who can be decent, who can be creative," dos Santos said. Harper, whose duties as a city photographer include taking pictures at City Council meetings, said the gay community is indebted to Vaughan, Rendell and others who backed domestic partner legislation.

"Mayor Rendell’s push and drive inspired those Council people," he said. "I think he gave them the feeling they could express openly the way they felt, and they did, and it passed." City Council’s choice of the terminology "domestic partner" was ideal, Harper said.

"It has a kind of neutrality … it’s not romantic," he said. "When it gets romantic, people get put off."


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MORE EMPLOYERS WEIGH DOMESTIC PARTNER BENEFITS
By Sherwood Ross
REUTERS, September 28, 1998

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Although only 6 percent of employers currently offer their workers benefit coverage for domestic partners, 29 percent more have the idea under consideration, a new study shows.

Such actions could be a boon to many of the estimated 5.6 million households headed by unmarried couples, approximately one-third of them same-gender couples.

Domestic partners are defined as unmarried people "who live together in a financial relationship, and have some type of financial interdependence," according to Buck Consultants, Inc., a New York-based human resources firm that conducted the benefits survey.

"More and more companies are accepting that this is the right thing to do," said Marsha Venturi, a principal in Buck’s Secaucus, N.J., office.

"If it’s offered to those partners where the serious nature of the commitment is at the same level as someone who might be married to someone else, we don’t expect it to be significantly more costly than if you cover spouses and other family members," Venturi said.

"As pressure increases to attract and retain talented employees, many employers find that providing domestic partner benefits is a relatively low cost means of achieving this goal," an executive summary of the study published by the consulting firm said.

However, Phoebe Liebig, associate professor of gerontology at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and a benefits authority, said, "My guess is that this benefit isn’t going to be something that springs up like wildflowers because there is a move now in Congress to cut off these kinds of benefits, particularly for same-gender."

Buck found that employers who offer the benefit do so "in an attempt to be fair to all employees," to "create employee goodwill" and to "enhance the employer’s overall corporate image for innovation" in human resources practices.

Other employers are acting "for fear of employee claims of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or marital status," the consulting firm said.

Of employers who do not offer the benefit, 56 percent said there was no employee interest in it; 30 percent cited cost concerns; and 21 percent said they had moral objections to it. (Some gave more than one reason.)

The trend toward benefits for nontraditional couples became apparent when Buck surveyed 1,058 employers last August. Two-thirds of the companies had 500 workers or more, making the study data more representative of larger businesses than smaller ones.

According to Buck, employers who set up domestic partner coverage must decide if the benefits will be limited to same-gender domestic partners who cannot marry by law or if they will be available to all unmarried partners who meet their requirements.

Buck said that employers could define eligible "domestic partners" in a variety of ways, including:

  • A committed relationship of two unrelated individuals.
  • A specified minimum time period for the relationship to have endured, say, two years.
  • Cohabitation.
  • Shared responsibilities on the part of the partners, both domestically and financially.

Employers’ fears that covering male same sex-couples might drive up their health costs by increasing the risk of AIDS claims "has not proven to be true among employers actually offering such coverage," the Buck executive summary said.

Because of privacy concerns, they noted, gay employees often decline to enroll partners in corporate health care plans.

EDITORS: Sherwood Ross is a freelance writer who covers workplace issues for Reuters. Any opinions in the column are solely those of Mr. Ross.
www.irish-times.com


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AN ANCIENT AND HISTORIC REMINDER "WHEN MARRIAGE BETWEEN GAYS WAS BY RITE"
Provided by LelioRisen@aol.com

As the churches struggle with the issue of homosexuality, a long tradition of gay marriage indicates that the Christian attitude to same-gender unions may not always have been as "straight" as is now suggested, writes Jim Duffy.

Opinion: RITE AND REASON
by Jim Duffy

Kiev art museum contains a curious icon from St Catherine’s monastery on Mount Sinai. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman pronubus (best man) overseeing what in a standard Roman icon would be the wedding of a husband and wife. In the icon, Christ is the pronubus. Only one thing is unusual. The "husband and wife" are in fact two men.

Is the icon suggesting that a homosexual "marriage" is one sanctified by Christ? The very idea initially seems shocking. The full answer comes from other sources about the two men featured, St Serge and St Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who became Christian martyrs.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early Church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly close. Severus of Antioch in the sixth century explained that "we should not separate in speech [Serge and Bacchus] who were joined in life". More bluntly, in the definitive 10th century Greek account of their lives, St Serge is openly described as the "sweet companion and lover" of St Bacchus.

In other words, it confirms what the earlier icon implies, that they were a homosexual couple. Unusually their orientation and relationship was openly accepted by early Christian writers. Furthermore, in an image that to some modern Christian eyes might border on blasphemy, the icon has Christ himself as their pronubus, their best man overseeing their "marriage".

The very idea of a Christian homosexual marriage seems incredible. Yet after a 12-year search of Catholic and Orthodox church archives, Yale history professor John Boswell has discovered that a type of Christian homosexual "marriage" did exist as late as the 18th century.

Contrary to myth, Christianity’s concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has evolved both as a concept and as a ritual. Prof Boswell discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient church liturgical documents (and clearly separate from other types of non-marital blessings such as blessings of adopted children or land) were ceremonies called, among other titles, the "Office of Same-Sex Union" (10th and 11th century Greek) or the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century).

These ceremonies had all the contemporary symbols of a marriage: a community gathered in church, a blessing of the couple before the altar, their right hands joined as at heterosexual marriages, the participation of a priest, the taking of the Eucharist, a wedding banquet afterwards. All of which are shown in contemporary drawings of the same-gender union of Byzantine Emperor Basil I (867-886) and his companion John. Such homosexual unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12th/early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (Geraldus Cambrensis) has recorded.

Boswell’s book, The Marriage of Likeness: Same-Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe, lists in detail some same-gender union ceremonies found in ancient church liturgical documents. One Greek 13th century "Order for Solemnisation of Same-Sex Union", having invoked St Serge and St Bacchus, called on God to "vouchsafe unto these thy servants [N and N] grace to love one another and to abide unhated and not a cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God and all thy saints." The ceremony concludes: "And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded."

Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic "Office of Same-Sex Union", uniting two men or two women, had the couple having their right hands laid on the Gospel while having a cross placed in their left hands. Having kissed the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.

Boswell found records of same-gender unions in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St Petersburg, in Paris, Istanbul, and in Sinai, covering a period from the 8th to the 18th centuries. Nor is he the first to make such a discovery. The Dominican Jacques Goar (1601-1653) includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek prayer books.

While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times, it was only from about the 14th century that anti- homosexual feelings swept western Europe. Yet same

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