Press

NGLTF Urges Congress To ‘Take The Moral High Ground, Not The Political Low Road’

Date: 
May 15, 1996

"Anti-family," "shrewd," and "mean-spirited" were just a few of the words officials with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) used today to describe the Defense of Marriage Act.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the country's oldest national gay and lesbian civil rights organization, called on Congressional leaders to oppose federal anti-marriage legislation. "We urge all members of Congress, particularly Senator Dole and Speaker Gingrich, to take the moral high ground, not the political low road, in responding to this legislation," stated Executive Director Melinda Paras. "Congress should reject the political extremists who seek to have their narrow view of families become the law of the land," added Paras.

Citing constitutional reasons, real historical experience of most American families, and the current prohibition against same-gender marriage in all 50 states, the Task Force, in testimony submitted to the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, argued that backers of this legislation are attempting to "short-circuit very important debate about family issues in our country" and create a "wedge issue this election year between fair-minded Americans and those who promote hatred and intolerance in this country."

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has been working with activists throughout the country in battling state anti-marriage measures, beginning in South Dakota in 1995 when the first of these measures was introduced. The Task Force produced the widely used organizing manual To Have and To Hold which has since been spot lighted by a national Right-wing group, The Report, in its recently released video The Ultimate Target of the Gay Agenda: Same Sex Marriages. The work of the Task Force in defeating anti-marriage legislation has also received the attention of another national right-wing group, Focus on the Family.

The following is a section of the testimony from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. The section is entitled The Radical Right's View of Family. This testimony is attributable to Public Policy Director Helen Gonzales:

THE RADICAL RIGHT'S VIEW OF FAMILY

From testimony of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Submitted to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution

May 15, 1996

The view of the extreme Radical Right is that the only "right family" is that which fits its definition. If one examines statements by representatives from the various extremist organizations which form the national campaign against marriage, a picture of this "perfect traditional family" emerges. It is a family composed of a working man and a woman staying at home with their children. While this is a perfectly valid and positive description of many families, it is by no means a description which fits the majority of families. In fact, according to the Census Bureau, fewer than 30% of American families fit the traditional definition of family: two parents living with children under 18.1 Yet, political extremists continue to push for local, state and national legislation which seeks to impose policies that punish and demean families which do not fit their perfect view of the so-called "traditional family."

According to Concerned Women of America (CWA), for example, traditional marriage has been under attack over the past few decades, in great part because of the changes in state divorce laws. "We see no-fault divorce splinter families, leaving women struggling to provide for their children--and kids longing for a daddy in the home," said Jim Woodall of CWA. 2

In a recent television interview broadcast by the Family Research Council, Robert Knight, FRC's Director of Cultural Studies made the argument, raised often by anti-marriage advocates, that the sole, or main, purpose of marriage is to procreate and raise children.3 This argument, however, fails on two counts. First, many men and women marry and never have children, either because they choose not to do so or for other reasons. One assumes that a childless marriage is not valid in the eyes of these anti-marriage crusaders. Second, as pointed out below, many gay and lesbian couples are involved in raising children.

Anthony Falzarano, Executive Director, Transformations Ex-Gay Ministry claims that, ". . . the homosexual, let's say the political gay community, is out to destroy the traditional marriage, heterosexual marriage, that God has designed for us. God deemed that the male would leave his parents and cling onto the female and the two would become one."4

Marriage is both a civil and religious institution. Though some religious denominations do recognize and perform same-gender ceremonies, organizing for marriage is absolutely not a fight to force any religious institution to perform or extend religious recognition to any marriage union. This is about the freedom of two people who love each other to have a civil marriage license issued by the state. Just as the state should not interfere in any way with religious ceremonies, religious groups, such as the ones behind this anti-marriage campaign, should not govern who gets a civil marriage license.

The Defense of Marriage Act does nothing to strengthen the institution of marriage. Instead it attacks the integrity of lesbian and gay families. Throughout the United States, millions of lesbians and gay men have formed loving, committed relationships. They are caring for each other in good times and bad, contributing to the welfare of their communities, and paying taxes to support government services at every level. Yet they are systematically denied the benefits and rights of marriage. Lesbians and gay men can be turned away at the hospital when a partner has had an accident or illness, lack access to "family" health coverage and other forms of insurance, are denied the benefits of inheritance and taxation that surviving heterosexual spouses automatically enjoy, have no rights to a range of government benefits, and cannot make use of immigration law provisions to secure entry for partners who are citizens of other countries.

Large numbers of lesbians and gay men are also raising children. Estimates of the number of lesbian mothers range from about 1 to 5 million; of gay fathers, from 1 to 3 million; and of children of lesbian and gay parents, from 6 to 14 million. 5 Data gathered from exit polling after the 1992 presidential election found that while one-third of heterosexual voters had children under 18 living with them, one-quarter of lesbian, gay, or bisexual voters did as well.6 In other words, a population not thought to be at all involved with parenting, is only 25% less likely to be raising children than heterosexual adults. The "Defense of Marriage" proponents claim to have the best interests of children and their families in mind. Yet, their legislative solution will penalize and stigmatize the millions of children with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents.


1 See U.S. Census Bureau, 1990 Household Information Survey and the 1991 report from the Marriage and Family Division of the Census Bureau. 2 Jim Woodall, Vice President of Management, CWA, Lawfully Wedded? (undated paper) 3 See transcript from video tape of Same-Sex Marriage? Straight Talk from the Family Research Council. Broadcast aired April 10, 1996. 4 Id. 5 See American Psychological Association, Lesbian and Gay Parenting: A Resource For Psychologists, 1995. 6 See 1992 Voter News Service exit poll data, as reported in Power at the Polls: The Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual Vote, by Dr. John D'Emilio, Director, Policy Institute, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 1996.

–30–

The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.