As American citizens, we all deserve the full, civil right of marriage. However, we knew, in the late 80s, that it would not be dropped in our laps. We expected a fight much more rancorous than the campaign for equal treatment in the military.|
Complicating this campaign, we realized that there were some gay men and lesbians who didn’t believe legal marriage was worth fighting for, or that it was winnable.
The Right to Marry video was created to prepare everyone, and especially the gay and lesbian community, for the national debate that started in the 90s, taking place in the media, courts and state legislatures.
Winning this civil right seemed to be possible if we organized and presented compelling truthful facts about our lives. This video presents these facts, along with the personal stories that made this struggle so vital and compelling.
While a growing number now support the right to legal marriage, at that time, too few understood the magnitude of what was at stake. Specifically the emotional, social and financial hardships experienced by the loss of legal marriage equality.
The radical right-wing forces, as well as the hate-thy-neighbor religions, thought that being gay was somehow, magically, a choice, and that choice was sinful or disgusting. As a result, same-sex marriage — and domestic partner recognition of any sort — was lambasted, and continues to be targeted, in their press and TV and radio programs, anti-gay videos, as well as in all of their political endeavors.
Because anti-gay politicians continue to make laws that erode marriage equality, and curtail civil rights protection for LGBT people, the rational put forth by The Right to Marry remains pertinent to this day.
The Right to Marry was a natural outgrowth of the work of Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples. The bulk of the Partners Web site is devoted to legal recognition of same-sex couples.
The Right to Marry is not a “balanced” report presenting “both” sides of the issue. This video unequivocally supported full citizenship and full civil rights.
It wasn’t until the Supreme Court ruled, in 1967, that couples of mixed race could legally marry in many states. Despite this ruling, anti-racial, anti-marriage laws remained in several states until 2000 when Alabama became the last state to remove its law against mixed-race marriage.
It is astonishing that, like racial exclusion, an entire class of citizens was unfairly denied access to so fundamental a social institution.
All of the Partners Task Force work during the 80s and 90s pointed to this all encompassing issue, and this video project. It’s clear that same-sex couples were subject to extensive discrimination, however, the discrimination was not just from being identified as gay or lesbian. It was because we are in same-sex relationships, and these precious relationships needed fundamental protections.
The extent of that discrimination was made clear by the landmark National Survey of Gay and Lesbian Couples Partners Task Force conducted in 1990. Among the 1,266 couples responding, about 40 percent experienced discrimination in employment benefits and taxes, about 20 percent in insurance and membership, and about 13 percent in housing and credit or banking.
Domestic partnership legislations address a few of the inequities at select jobs, and in scattered localities, but they are merely a few “crumbs” compared to the whole marriage cake. For instance, legal marriage triggers at least 1,138 federal rights and responsibilities, plus 170-350 laws per state. None of which are availible through a domestic partner status.
Only legal marriage can correct the full range of discrimination that same-sex couples face, including issues such as immigration for one’s partner, or the right to claim a partner’s Social Security survivor benefits.
Written and directed by Demian, The Right to Marry was released in 1996. It ran 72 minutes and featured nationally prominent gay and lesbian leaders who spelled out why this right is so important, and what we could do to win and preserve it.
The video has interviews with:
The video also highlighted some of the same-sex couples who have sued for legal marriage, with personal recollections from:
- Rev. Mel White, well known from his “60 Minutes” appearance and his book “Stranger at the Gate: To be gay and Christian in America”
- Phyllis Burke, author of “Family Values: A lesbian mother’s fight for her son”
- Richard Mohr, author of “A More Perfect Union”
- Kevin Cathcart, executive director of the Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund
By 1996, there had been 16 unsuccessful suits for legal marriage in the United States since 1971. The case in Hawai’i, which finally lost in December 1999, had the strongest chance of success. This case and its implications are vividly described in the video by:
- Faygele benMiriam, who, along with Paul Barwick, sued Washington state in 1971
- Benjamin Cable-McCarthy, who, along with partner Marcial Cable-McCarthy, sued California in 1993
Personal stories provided a backdrop for the discussion, including the weddings and reflections of:
- Susan Reardon, co-director of the Hawai’i Equal Rights Marriage Project
- Evan Wolfson, co-counsel in the Hawai’i suit and director of “The Marriage Project” at Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund
An original arrangement of the song “Everything Possible,” written by singer and songwriter Fred Small, was utilized as background music, as well as sung by a quartet during various scenes. It contains the line: “You can be anybody you want to be, you can love whomever you will.”
- Frances Fuchs of her partner Gayle Remick
- Jacqui Johnston and Natalie Hanson during the time of their Unitarian church wedding
Demian narrates and conducts the interviews.
Video Production Team ——————
Demian, producer, writer, director
Demian, a photographer since 1957, and has worked in film and video creating documentaries, animations, dramatic narratives and artistic cinema since 1958. As director of Sweet Corn Productions since 1971, Demian has written and directed liberation-oriented plays in Boston and Seattle. Demian produced and hosted radio programs Gaybreak and Gayway in Massachusetts (1973-79). [See: Demian’s Directing Résumé]
Demian was a founding member of the Legal Marriage Alliance of Washington (1995), and was Webmaster and newsletter editor for LMA (1996-98). Demian earned a Doctorate in Education, a Master of Education, as well as a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting. His photography, illustration and writing has been widely published in mainstream and gay journals.
Steve Bryant, assistant producer
As a senior vice president for one of Washington state’s largest public relations firms, Steve has produced and written award-winning corporate video productions. He has also managed national communications programs for both leading corporations and small businesses.
Demian and Steve were responsible for the Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples’ landmark survey of 1,266 same-sex American couples. [See: Survey Summary]
The Right to Marry, two years in the making, was produced on a shoestring budget with the help of modest donations. The original VHS video is out-of-print, however, a re-edited DVD has been released on DVD in 2017.
“The Right to Marry” - DVD
Available from Amazon.com
“Demian’s Film & Video Projects” - DVD
Contains an 8-minute excerpt from “The Right to Marry”. Rev. Mel White and Phylis Burke appear in the excerpt.
The shorts on this DVD represent more than 40 years of moving-picture artistic endeavors. It includes 21 of Demian’s short films, and excerpts from larger projects.
Available from Amazon.com
Info from Sweet Corn: “Demian’s Film & Video Projects”