Just the Facts

Why do gay and lesbian couples want to get married?

For similar reasons as anyone who wants to marry. To stand in front of friends and family to make a lifetime commitment to the person they love. To share the joys and the sorrows that life brings. To be a family, and to be able to protect that family.

As more Americans consider what it means to allow same-sex couples to join in civil marriage, you may have questions about what it means and how it works. Here are answers to some common questions:

Does this change the definition of marriage?
No. Allowing same-sex couples to marry does not change the meaning of marriage. It simply allows same-sex couples to marry the person they love, to establish and protect a family and to make a lifetime commitment in the same way that other couples are able to.

Where is marriage legal for gay and lesbian couples?
Connecticut, Iowa, Maine*, Maryland*, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington*, plus the District of Columbia, have the freedom to marry for gay couples, and Rhode Island officially pledges non-discrimination against marriages between same-sex couples from other states. (* denotes states where same-sex couples cannot yet apply for marriage licenses. Couples can apply for licenses beginning December 6, 2013 in Washington, January 1, 2013 in Maryland, and at some point between Dec. 6, 2013 and Jan. 6, 2013 in Maine)

How would gay and lesbian couples marry?
All couples who marry get a civil marriage through a license, usually obtained at a courthouse or City Hall. States could make civil marriage available to same-sex couples. Some couples also choose to marry in a religious setting. This would not change.

Does civil marriage for gay couples affect churches or other religious institutions?
No. It does not affect religious marriages, religious institutions or clergy in any way. No religion would be forced to marry same-sex couples, or recognize same-sex marriage within the context of their religious beliefs.

Aren’t there other alternatives to marriage for gay and lesbian couples?

There have been attempts to create marriage-like relationships, but they don’t work. For example, Domestic Partnership and Civil Union laws still don’t qualify a spouse or children for health care coverage that employers only extend through marriage. If a loved one is sick and needs to take time off from work, same-sex couples are not eligible for family leave.

More questions? Check out Why Marriage Matter’s full Q and A page.

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