As American citizens, we deserve the full, civil right of marriage. However, we expected, 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 the gay and lesbian community for the national debate that started in the 90s, and took 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. The video presented these facts, along with the personal stories that made this struggle so vital and compelling.
Although the video was meant to be persuasive to a general audience, it was aimed squarely at the gay and lesbian community.
While a growing number now support the right to legal marriage, at that time, too few understood the magnitude of what was at stake. The radical right-wing forces understood. Same-sex marriage — and domestic partner recognition of any sort — was lambasted, and continues to be targeted, in their TV and radio programs, anti-gay videos, as well as in all of their political endeavors.
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 had 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 Hawaii, 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 Hawaii Equal Rights Marriage Project
- Evan Wolfson, co-counsel in the Hawaii 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 a marriage ceremony. 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
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 was 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.
Years from now, the nation will look back in disbelief that, like the racial exclusion, an entire class of citizens was unfairly excluded from so fundamental a social institution.
All of the Partners Task Force work through the 80s and 90s pointed to this issue, and this video project. It was clear to us that same-sex couples were subject to extensive discrimination, however, the discrimination was not just from being identified as gay or lesbian; it was also because we are in same-sex relationships.
The extent of that discrimination was made clear by the landmark National Survey of Gay and Lesbian Couples we 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 partner provisions 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 more than 1,000 rights and responsibilities on the federal level. 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 over issues such as immigration for one’s partner, or the right to claim a partner’s Social Security survivor benefits.
The Right to Marry, two years in the making, was produced on a shoestring budget with the help of modest donations.
Partners Task Force has advocated for same-sex couples since 1986, and has been a legal marriage proponent since 1990.
Because this video is out-of-print, the information is presented here as an historical record of the video, the people who were in it, and the issues they stood for.
—— Video Production Team
Demian, a photographer for more than 35 years, has worked in film and video creating documentaries, animations and dramatic narratives. He produced the musical fantasy The Fight Before Christmas. 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). He 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.
[Please see: Demian’s Directing Résumé]
Steve Bryant, assistant producer
As a senior vice president for one of Washington state’s largest public relations firm, 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 Partners’ landmark survey of 1,266 same-sex American couples.
[See: Survey Summary]