NOW’s Position on Marriage Equality

NOW is a member of the United for Marriage coalition, which includes more than 100 organizations dedicated to working toward the goal of marriage equality for all. NOW and the NOW Foundation participated in filing three briefs with the court on these cases. On March 26 and 27, NOW and its allies will be wearing red in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., representing the majority of Americans who believe that the ability to marry the person you love is a constitutional right.

NOW has long recognized that the right to marry is a feminist issue. Federal law provides more than 1,100 rights, protections and benefits to heterosexual married couples. This includes everything from Social Security and tax benefits to family and medical leave, and the right to visit an injured spouse in the hospital. Because of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) these rights, protections and benefits are currently denied to same-sex couples. Lesbian couples are particularly disadvantaged by this injustice because, thanks to the gender wage gap, women are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to men, while their financial and caretaking responsibilities for children are disproportionately higher.

United States v. Windsor has the potential to render DOMA unconstitutional. Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer were a committed couple who shared their lives for 40 years before they were finally able to legally wed. When Thea died, Edie was forced to pay a large estate tax that would not have been demanded from a widow whose husband had just died. If the Supreme Court rules in Edie’s favor and strikes down DOMA, the federal government would have to extend the same protections and benefits it grants to heterosexual couples to same-sex couples who legally marry.

Hollingsworth v. Perry addresses whether same-sex marriage can be prohibited. In 2008, California passed Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that amended the state constitution to restrict marriage to heterosexual couples only. Proposition 8 was found to be unconstitutional by the district and appeals courts, but that ruling is being challenged in Hollingsworth v. Perry. If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court ruling, Proposition 8 will be recognized as unconstitutional, and the right to marry will be extended to lesbian and gay couples in California and possibly across the country.