March 26, 2013 - Statement of NOW President Terry O'Neill:
As the Supreme Court hears arguments today and tomorrow in two pivotal marriage equality cases, it is important to recognize the evolution that has taken place in the United States on this issue.
NOW began its work for lesbian rights in 1971, and nearly two decades ago affirmed the choice of marriage as a fundamental right that should not be denied to same-sex couples. Since that time, a sea change has occurred in this nation -- thanks to the tireless and courageous work of activists at NOW, LGBT and other social justice organizations. We have worked in the streets, public forums, legislatures, voting booths and courts to change laws and opinions. Even some of our opponents eventually came around. Today, polls show that a majority of people in the country believe same-sex couples should be able to legally wed.
Marriage equality is a feminist issue, not merely because achieving lesbian rights has long been one of NOW's core issues. Same-sex couples denied recognition of their marriages lose some 1,000 federal benefits, but lesbian couples are hit disproportionately by this injustice. According to The Washington Post, lesbian couples with children are especially at risk for poverty -- nearly two and a half times as likely as heterosexual couples with kids, and 1.8 times as likely as their gay male counterparts, to qualify for some form of public assistance. Burdened by gender-based discrimination on top of discrimination based on sexual orientation, lesbian-led families can least afford to lose out on the benefits that legal recognition of marriage provides.
NOW and the NOW Foundation are signatories of three friend-of-the-court briefs in Hollingsworth v. Perry and U.S. v. Windsor -- the cases before the Supreme Court this week. In a brief filed by NOW Foundation and the Feminist Majority Foundation, we argue that California's Proposition 8 not only has no legitimate purpose, it has an affirmatively illegitimate purpose under both California and federal law -- taking a side in a religious debate. NOW signed on to two other briefs, led by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which urge the Supreme Court to apply the same heightened scrutiny to discrimination based on sexual orientation as discrimination based on race.
Right now, there are loving, committed couples -- couples just starting their lives together, couples with children dependent upon them, couples who have shared lifetimes together -- who are denied the same rights and benefits as other couples in this country simply because they love someone of the same sex. NOW calls on the Supreme Court to end this shameful injustice without delay.
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