(June 2005) A group of progressive religious leaders who object to the way Christianists use the Bible to promote inequality formed The Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality and read their declaration aloud at a recent event where some of us queer artists performed or just plain made a ruckus.
We gave these mostly straight religious leaders a standing ovation after they read the following statement:
The most fundamental human right, after the necessities of food, clothing and shelter, is the right to affection and the supportive love of other human beings. We become most fully human when we love another person. We can grow in our capacity to be human—to be loving—in a family unit. This right to love and form a family is so fundamental that our United States Constitution takes it for granted in its dedication to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Our state constitution likewise affirms the “inalienable rights" of human beings to "life, liberty, the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Throughout history, tyrants have known that by denying the right of oppressed peoples to form and nurture families, they can kill the spirit of those peoples. From the shameful history of slavery in America, the injustice of forbidding people to marry is evident as a denial of a basic human right. The American laws forbidding interracial marriage, now struck down, were clearly discriminatory. Denial of the status of marriage to those who would freely accept its responsibilities creates legal and economic inequities and social injustice. We feel called to protest and oppose this injustice.
As religious people, clergy and lay leaders, we are mandated by faith to stand for justice in our common civic life. We oppose the use of sacred texts and religious traditions to deny legal equity to same-gender couples. As concerned citizens we affirm the liberty of adults of the same gender to love and marry. We insist that no one, especially the state, is allowed to coerce people into marriage or bar two consenting adults, whether of the same or differing genders, from forming the family unit that lets them be more fully loving, thus more fully human. We respect the fact that debate and discussion continue in many of our religious communities as to the scriptural, theological and liturgical issues involved. However, we draw on our many faith traditions to arrive at a common conviction. We are resolved that the State should not interfere with same-gender couples who choose to marry and share fully and equally in the rights, responsibilities, and commitments of civil marriage.
We affirm freedom of conscience in this matter. We recognize that the state may not require religious groups to officiate at, or bless, same-gender marriages. Likewise, a denial of state civil recognition dishonors the religious convictions of those communities and clergy who officiate at, and bless, same-gender marriages. The state may not favor the convictions of one religious group over another by denying individuals their fundamental right to marry and to have those marriages recognized by civil law.
As faith leaders, we commit ourselves to public action, visibility, education, and mutual support in the service of the right and freedom to marry.
So here’s data from the HRC website:
RIGHTS AND PROTECTIONS DENIED SAME-SEX PARTNERS
Because same-sex couples are denied the right to marry, same-sex couples and their families are denied access to the more than 1,138 federal rights, protections and responsibilities automatically granted to married heterosexual couples. Among those are:
• The right to make decisions on a partner's behalf in a medical emergency. Specifically, the states generally provide that spouses automatically assume this right in an emergency. If an individual is unmarried, the legal “next of kin” automatically assumes this right. This means, for example, that a gay man with a life partner of many years may be forced to accept the financial and medical decisions of a sibling or parent with whom he may have a distant or even hostile relationship [or be denied the right to see or care for her long-term partner, as happened in a local case].
• The right to take up to 12 weeks of leave from work to care for a seriously ill partner or parent of a partner. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 permits individuals to take such leave to care for ill spouses, children and parents but not a partner or a partner’s parents.
• The right to petition for same-sex partners to immigrate.
• The right to assume parenting rights and responsibilities when children are brought into a family through birth, adoption, surrogacy or other means. For example, in most states, there is no law providing a noncustodial, nonbiological or nonadoptive parent’s right to visit a child—or responsibility to provide financial support for that child—in the event of a breakup.
• The right to share equitably all jointly held property and debt in the event of a breakup, since there are no laws that cover the dissolution of domestic partnerships.
• Family-related Social security benefits, income and estate tax benefits, disability benefits, family-related military and veterans benefits and other important benefits.
• The right to inherit property from a partner in the absence of a will [or to inherit retirement accounts without paying up to 75% if it in taxes, since the laws don’t recognize you as a legitimate spouse]
• The right to purchase continued health coverage for a domestic partner after the loss of a job.
Such inequities impose added costs on these families, such as increased health insurance premiums, higher tax burdens and the absence of pension benefits or Social Security benefits in the event of a partner’s death.
Some same-sex and transgender families consult attorneys to draw up legal documents such as powers of attorney, co-parenting agreements and wills, that will at least permit them to declare who they wish to make health care and financial decisions for them if they become incapacitated; how they wish to share parenting responsibilities or, in the event of a breakup, custody of a child; and what they want to happen to their property when they die. However, these are not a substitute for legal protection under law and cannot provide the broad range of benefits and protections provided by law.