Talking Points

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what we’re asking for, why it matters, and why equality benefits us all. We dissect the main complaints and misunderstandings point-for-point.

Why “gay marriage”?

  • We’re not asking for “gay marriage.”
  • The term “gay marriage” implies that we’re seeking a special class or status for same-sex partners — we’re not.
  • Gay Americans are seeking the legal and equal freedom to marry the person they love and care for, just as non-gay Americans do.
  • We refer to our cause as “marriage equality” and ask you to do the same — we’re seeking equality, not a special status.

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Gay people can get married – to a person of the opposite sex.

  • The right to marry means nothing unless it is the right to marry the person of your choice – the unique, irreplaceable person whom you love and whom you choose.
  • There aren’t very many people who would like the government to play a role in choosing the person they marry.

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Gay people can get married – in MA, CT, IA, NH, VT, NY, DC or Canada.

  • Yes, they can. But everyone wants to marry in their own hometown, with family and friends, supported by their own community.
  • Why should same-sex couples be banished to another state or country when others may marry at home?

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Aren’t children harmed when they’re raised by same-sex couples?

  • Many children are being raised right now in Rhode Island by same-sex parents and nothing will change that.
  • Denying children the legal protections they would enjoy if their parents were able to marry simply punishes the children because some people don’t approve of their parents.
  • Child welfare experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association, unanimously say that children raised by LGBT parents are developmentally normal on every measure – academic, social, behavioral, and psychological.
  • Research says what matters most is that children have two good parents who are dedicated to their welfare — not that the parents be of opposite sexes.
  • Learn more about the children of same-sex couples »

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Won’t children will be taught about “gay marriage” in school?

  • The marriage equality bill in Rhode Island does not include any stipulations that will affect public school curriculum.
  • Teachers will continue to provide children with relevant, age-appropriate discussions of family and diversity, just as they do now. These discussions do not infringe on anyone’s First Amendment rights of free speech and religion, in fact, they are designed to encourage mutual respect and tolerance between those of differing viewpoints on this issue.
  • Whether or not same-sex couples have access to equal marriage, there are children in school who have same-sex parents. It would be wrong to prevent those children from discussing their families in the classroom or on the playground.
  • Both gay teens and the children of same-sex parents have a right to feel safe at school. Many schools and teachers have already begun to realize this, with or without legal marriage equality.
  • If a teacher sees the need to address different types of families as part of a lesson on diversity, or to diffuse a bullying situation, then he/she may do so — the legality of same-sex marriage has no affect on this reality.
  • Parents are always free to opt their children out of diversity education or choose alternative schooling options if they do not agree with public school cirricula.
  • Learn more about marriage equality, inclusive educational practices and schools »

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Won’t you be forcing religions to do something they don’t believe in?

  • We’re seeking only to obtain civil marriage under state law, not to influence the practice of any church or religion.
  • Religions would still be able to determine their own religious marriage ceremonies, as they do now in refusing to marry couples of different religions, or people who have been divorced.
  • The autonomy of religions would not change.
  • No court decision or legislative enactment can change the basic tenets of religious faith.
  • Clergy will not be required to perform any ceremony that conflicts with their faith, just as clergy today are not required to perform interfaith or second marriages.

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But isn’t being gay or lesbian immoral?

  • Morality is different from law. Not all laws are morals and not all morals are laws. It’s not the government’s job to legislate morality.
  • Morality is subjective. Because morality is based on beliefs and values, they differ from person to person, family to family and faith to faith. Morality is a philosophical question.
  • Some faiths teach that drinking alcohol, eating shellfish, short haircuts on women, or dating before marriage are immoral. But the government allows all of these things under civil law.
  • In the past, we’ve worked to change laws as time, society and values progressed. There was a time when it was considered moral to own slaves and to disallow women from voting or owning property.

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Can’t you get the protections of marriage with powers of attorney and so on?

  • No. There is no way to contract into the vast majority of protections that only marriage provides.
  • There are hundreds of Rhode Island laws in which marriage is factor — there’s no substitute for the automatic legal protections marriage provides.
  • There is no substitute for the social power of a marriage certificate in affirming a couple’s common humanity and equality.
  • No other legal document can require your employer to let you go home to take care of your sick partner, or make a nursing home give you a room with your partner of 50 years, or provide a financial safety net when a working spouse is injured or killed. Anyone can put a handful of basic protections in place, but they do not compare to the comprehensive protections of marriage.

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Isn’t the purpose of marriage procreation?

  • Most people understand marriage first and foremost as a loving, committed, lifelong partnership between two people.
  • Many people marry and cannot or do not have children – because of age, medical conditions or choice.
  • Many gay men and lesbians already have children, but are denied the ability to raise those children within a marital relationship.

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Hasn’t there been too much judicial activism on marriage?

  • In our system of government, there are crucial roles for all three branches – legislative, executive, and judicial. And in every movement for social justice, all three of those branches have come into play.
  • The courts have a particular role to play in protecting the rights of minorities, as well as in interpreting laws to make sure they are in line with the state or federal constitution.
  • Legislatures are free to act on the question of marriage equality at any time, as the Rhode Island Legislature did in allowing closely related couples to marry if doing so is in keeping with their faith tradition, despite general consanguinity restrictions both in Rhode Island and across the country.

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Shouldn’t the people decide on marriage by directly voting on ballot questions?

  • Sending the issue off to referendum short circuits the debate and discussion Rhode Islanders want to have on this issue.
  • We should be wary of sending issues of fundamental human rights to a popular vote, where it is very easy for majorities to give short shrift to minorities.
  • Legislators can play a constructive role, too, by gathering information, listening to their constituents, considering the general good, weighing expert opinions, and taking action.

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Marriage is already in tough shape. Why should we make this fragile institution even more tenuous?

  • Marriage is a resilient institution that has endured centuries of change in our ideas about it.
  • Most people want to marry at some point in their lives, and including same-sex couples in marriage only increases the circle of marriage supporters.
  • In Massachusetts, where same-sex couples have been able to marry for nearly five years, heterosexual married couples say there has been no impact at all on their own marriages.

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Why not civil unions? Why can’t we just call it something else for same-sex couples?

  • Civil unions are no replacement for the legal and social protections marriage provides to families.
  • Civil unions have portability obstacles that marriage does not. Additionally they will have no way to access the federal protections once DOMA ends as those protections are tied solely to marriage.
  • Civil unions provide state-based legal rights, but marriage has always been more than the sum of its legal parts. Even the word “marriage” is a protection because others understand that when you are married, you are a family.
  • Civil unions only for same-sex couples also create a separate legal status just for gay people, which is plainly discrimination.
  • We have learned in this country that separate legal institutions for just some citizens – and separate lines at the clerk’s office – is not equal protection. This was recently confirmed by the Connecticut Supreme Court.
  • Learn more about MERI's position on civil unions »

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Doesn’t “gay marriage” lead to polygamy?

  • The question here is why qualified gay people should be kept from marrying the person of their choice – not how many people can marry.
  • We are not saying there should be no rules, but only that the same rules should be applied.
  • This same argument was raised when couples sought to end race discrimination in marriage and now when we seek to end sex and sexual orientation discrimination in marriage.
  • The end of race restrictions in marriage 40 years ago has not led to changes in laws against polygamy.

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