This year may be showdown time for legalizing gay and lesbian
marriages. With a favorable court decision expected this year, or
next, in Hawaii, the door opens for the lady (other states follow
suit and legalize same-sex marriage) or the tiger (states then ban
same-sex marriages). But even though legalization may be imminent,
many gays and lesbians resist the right to wed that has already
been won in several European countries.
Legalizing marriage may mean ‘the end of domestic partnership
benefits,’ predicts Nancy Polikoff in Ms.
(May/June 1995). Many who’ve fought for domestic partnership
benefits — now offered in 35 municipalities and scores of private
organizations — believe that keeping and expanding the notion of
domestic partnerships is much preferable to pressing for marriage.
Melinda Paras of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force sees
partnerships as crucial to forming ‘a broader definition of
families. Domestic partners shouldn’t have to be gay or lesbian.
They shouldn’t have to be having sex. They can be two adults
sharing a home and sharing commitment, responsible to each
On the other hand, marriage fans argue that in the here and now,
marriage clearly outshines domestic partnerships both on practical
and emotional levels. As a number of documents note on the
Partners Task Force for
Gay & Lesbian Couples Web site, marriage
automatically confers parental and economic gains way beyond the
scope of any existing domestic partnership. Partners co-director
Demian says the majority of gays and lesbians are in long-term
relationships and most want to be married, just like everybody
else. ‘As gays and lesbians we miss out on the rituals and
ceremonies that support and affirm our families,’ notes one
pro-marriage suburban gay family man in Out (May
Clearly, there’s lots of sentiment to make same-sex unions very
much marriage-like. In the past decade, thousands of couples have
gotten hitched in secular or religious ceremonies. ‘The world’s
only gay and lesbian wedding fair’ sold out in Chicago this year,
reports Off Our Backs (April 1995).
While the marriage debate continues, a few feel that the
solution will not be an either/or proposition. Paras foresees a
time when marriage is legalized and partnership practices are also
greatly expanded. Then ‘we’ll be in a whole other place about the
definition of family, and gay marriage may become almost