The winning of this court case marks the turning point in the struggle for the equal treatment of same-sex couples as full citizens. After decades of law suits across the nation, this is the first win for the right to marry.
On December 3, 1996, an Hawaiian court ordered the state to allow legal marriage for same-sex couples. [See Hawaii Court Finding]
While the state legislature muddied the waters with a limited set of benefits under a poorly conceived registration law, it completely poisoned the Hawaii state constitution, and shut out same-sex couples from obtaining a basic civil, human right.
No government has any business interfering with two consenting adults who wish to legally marry.
Before the Hawaii case, the gay and lesbian community did not consider legal marriage as a goal. It was sought out by individual couples, who understood the impact of being denied access to all the laws that are triggered by legal marriage.
In 1971, a male couple in Minnesota filed the first court action seeking to marry. Since then, scores of such lawsuits have been undertaken through the private initiative of same-sex couples. The Hawaii case is the first to succeed at any level.
We first became sharply aware of the necessity for legal marriage after studying the results of our 1990 National Survey of 1,622 gay and lesbian couples. The survey found an extremely high rate of discrimination — 71 percent — based not just on being gay or lesbian, but on being a same-sex couple.
Most of that discrimination — in employment benefits, insurance, taxes, credit and banking, housing, hotels, hospital visitation, adoption, custody, immigration — could only be remedied by legal marriage.
Our survey also found many indications that same-sex couples regard themselves to be a family. Ninety-two percent of the women and 96 percent of the men were “committed to be together for life” or “for a long time.” The men averaged nearly seven years together and the women nearly five — despite being an average age of only 35.
Another indicator of the need for classification as a family rested with the substantial number of same-sex couples who care for children. Twenty-one percent of the women and nine percent of the men reported caring for children. Thirty percent of the lesbians and one-third of all couples under age 35 were considering having children.
We use the term “same-sex” marriage rather than “gay” marriage. In opposite-sex marriages we do not know with certainty a couple’s sexual orientation; we only know them to be male and female. Homosexuals can be legally married — so long as they marry an opposite-sex partner. Therefore, the marital discrimination gay men and lesbians face is based on the sex of the two partners, not their orientation. In fact, the Hawaii court’s ruling was based on this distinction.
Opposition to same-sex marriage is based entirely in prejudice. Finally, a judge saw that there is no logical reason to prohibit same-sex couples from protecting their families with legal marriage. This ruling is a huge civil right milestone and a model for the nation.
Religious bodies vary in their attitudes about same-sex marriage. Many denominations support not only ceremonies, but civil marriage itself. Churches are free to conduct marriage ceremonies for only those couples they deem worthy, but legal marriage is a state matter subject to Constitutional guarantees of equality.
Because America was founded on the Constitutional separation of church and state, no one church is able to dictate public policy. No church should have the ability to require civil marriage be patterned after their own particular dogma.
The longer a couples has been together, the more likely they are to personally experienced the discrimination that results from a lack of legal marriage status. It is this profound level of discrimination that has fueled our support for legal marriage.
Governments that offer Full Legal Marriage
South Africa (2005)
New Zealand (2013)
New Zealand (2013)
(England, Wales, Scotland) (2013)
US States & Territories
New Hampshire (2009)
District of Columbia (2009)
New York (2011)
Rhode Island (2013)
New Jersey (2013)
New Mexico (2013)
Michigan (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
Arkansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
West Virginia (2014)
Kansas (2014) - stayed pending legal challenge
North Carolina (2014)
South Carolina (2014)
U.S. Supreme Court (June 26, 2015):
Ruling: All U.S. States must now
allow same-sex couples the
freedom of legal marriage.
Native American Tribes|
Coquille Tribe, Oregon (2009)
Mashantucket Pequot, Connecticut (2011)
Suquamish Tribe, Washington (2011)
Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, Washington (2013)
Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Minnesota (2013)
Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Michigan (2013)
Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Michigan (2013)
Santa Ysabel Tribe, California (2013)
Confederated Tribes of the Colville Nation, Washington (2013)
Cheyenne, Oklahoma (2013)
Arapaho, Oklahoma (2013)
Leech Lake Tribal Court, Minnesota (2013)
Puyallup Tribe, Washington (2914)
Wind River Indian Reservation, Wyoming (2014)
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Michigan, (2014)
Colville Confederated Tribes, Washington (2014)
Central Council of Tlingit, Alaska (2015)
Haida Indian Tribes, Alaska (2015)