Here are a few of the stepping stones signifying progress made in the struggle for social, legal, and financial equality for same-sex couples in the United States. They represent a slow, general improvement in the lives of those choosing to make a family. These improvements stand on the shoulders of the black and women’s rights movements and, like these other struggles, have sometimes come at great cost and personal sacrifice to those seeking justice and equality.
A previous version of this article used the title “Factoids on Same-sex Couples.” I had meant the term “factoid” to be a cute way of saying “interesting little fact.” As it turns out, the word has a slightly different meaning.
Commentator Al Franken suggests in a footnote on page 127 of his book “The Truth (with jokes)” that “factoid” was coined by Norman Mailer in his 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe. In it he described a factoid as “facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper.” He created the word by combining “fact” and “-oid” to mean “like a fact.”
Franken said that factoids were routinely used by the radical right leaders to create false new facts to support their ideology. For instance, when the evangelicals claimed that they brought in the vote for George Bush (the younger), they were not using the total data, which otherwise would have made clear that there was no mandate at all. They just pretended there was one.
This is the same technique that is used by ideologues to “prove” that homosexuality is an illness, or that same-sex couples are not worthy of being treated the same as all other Americans.
And, as we all know, repeat a factoid often enough, and people will believe it.
I was wrong about using the term factoid in this article in two ways. First, I did not understand the original meaning of the word. And second, I was wrong about the facts being little.
These facts presented here are huge, they are true landmarks. They are the recognitions and legal changes that make huge differences in the social, political, and financial standing of same-sex couples. They are the pivots around which lives are saved, and families are allowed to thrive.
- The Metropolitan Community Church conducted their first holy union of same-sex partners in Los Angeles on December 3, 1968. It was officiated by Rev. Troy Perry.
- The first attempt to get legally married in the U.S. was attempted by Mike McConnell and Jack Baker. Their appeal was denied by the Minnesota Supreme Court on October 15, 1971. Scores of couples have followed with suits in dozens of states.
[Please see our article: Legal Marriage Court Cases: A Timeline]
- The Village Voice newspaper became the first private employer to announce that they offer domestic partner benefits to same-sex partners on July 1, 1982. Thousands of companies have since followed with workplace benefits for same-sex families.
[Please see our article: Private Employment Benefits]
- The Unitarian Universalist General Assembly approved union services for same-sex couples in June 26, 1984.
- Berkeley, Calif., became first U.S. city, on December 5, 1984, to establish domestic partner benefits — thanks to the efforts of partners Tom Brougham and Barry Warren.
[Please see our article: Governments Offering Benefits]
- An estimated 2,000 same-sex couples celebrated a mass wedding on October 10, 1987 at the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. The event was held in front of the IRS Building in Washington, D.C., where more than 5,000 supporters witnessed the proceedings. The Wedding was organized by Los Angeles couple J. Carey Junkin and Walter Wheeler, founders of Couples, Inc., a national organization for the advancement of lesbian and gay couples. Initially, J. Carey and Walter were rebuffed by the Marches organizers as being too trivial. However, as was reported by the Philadelphia Gay News (October 16, 1987), it became a powerful “demonstration of anger that lesbian and gay couples are not afforded the same rights that even cohabiting heterosexual couples enjoy.”
- New York’s highest court became nation’s first to declare same-sex partners “family” in Braschi v. Stahl (July 6, 1989).
- Denmark passed law on May 26, 1989 creating the world’s first legalized “registered partnership.” The law, which is identical to the marriage law in almost everything except the right to adopt, took effect on October 1, 1989.
[Please see our article: Scandinavia: Registered Partnership]
- In a random, national polling in 1989, The San Francisco Examiner found that:
60 percent of 287 gay men were currently involved in a relationship.
In their San Francisco Bay Area sample:
64 percent of 113 lesbians were currently involved in a relationship.
58 percent of 299 gay men were currently involved in a relationship.
The poll was published in their “Gay in America” series, in which they state:
81 percent of 101 lesbians were currently involved in a relationship.
“Contrary to the stereotype that gays are prone to unstable relationships, The Examiner poll shows that half the current gay relationships nationally and two out of three in the Bay Area have endured for more than two years. The median is 2.3 years nationally, 2.9 in the Bay Area.”
The Examiner went on to say, “The myth is that gays are always falling in and out of playing house. They’re not.”
[Please see their reprint: “Gay in America”]
- Also in 1989, we conducted a national, volunteer-based survey that discovered that relationships averaged nearly six years.
Because there has been so few scientific, unbiased studies of same-sex couples, and of homosexuality in general, most of the “common knowledge” assumed about couples is pure conjecture, and many items are bogus. For instance, it has been widely assumed that lesbians form more longer lasting relationships than gay men. We found this to be false when analysing the data from our national survey.
[See our Partners Task Force National Survey.]
- Karen Thompson is finally named guardian of disabled partner Sharon Kowalski on December 17, 1992 — their 12th anniversary — after seven years of court battles.
- On April 1, 2001, The Netherlands became the first country in the world to offer full, legal marriage to same-sex couples. Other nations have followed.
[Please see our article: The Netherlands Offers Legal Marriage]
- Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to offer full legal marriage to same-sex couples on May 17, 2004.
[Please see our article: Massachusetts Offers Marriage]
- Civil Unions were declared invalid for recognizing a relationship for divorce, wrongful death suits, etc., in the states of Connecticut (2001), Georgia (2002), Illinois (2001), Indiana (2002), and Texas (2003).
A Civil Union was useful for recognizing a relationship in Iowa (2003), New York (2003), and West Virginia (2003?).
[Please see our article: Civil Unions: The Vermont Approach]
- A high court ruling recognized an out-of state legal marriage in New York on February 1, 2007.
[Please see: Legal Marriage Report: Global Status of Legal Marriage]