Nancy Polikoff

Love makes a family...but only through marriage

Filed By Nancy Polikoff | April 04, 2009 5:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Connecticut, love makes a family

On a day when most people were focused on the marriage win in Iowa , I read the news that the Connecticut group Love Makes A Family is disbanding. Its "core purpose" was achieving marriage for same-sex couples, and, having done that, it is closing up shop. So I guess its name should have been Marriage Makes a Family.

Often when I talk about the ideas in Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage, someone says to me that s/he agrees with me but that making marriage matter less should happen after same-sex couples can marry. The folding of this Connecticut group confirms my fears that marriage is the end point for many people and that achieving justice for the same-sex couples who don't marry and for all the gay men and lesbians, and their children, who are not partnered is not on the agenda.

What could this group do to further the well-being of all gay men and lesbians in Connecticut? The list is long, but here's one example -- push for a free, easy-to-use advance directive registry. Now if you get married in Connecticut, your partner can visit you in the hospital and make your health care decisions in an emergency. But what about the unmarried couples and all the unpartnered gay men and lesbians?

Love Makes a Family could become part of a coalition working to ensure that everyone in the state can select the people to make their emergency health care decisions. There are states with model registries (my top nominee is Idaho). They could advocate a law like that in the District of Columbia that gives unmarried/unregistered domestic partners priority decision-making authority and that lets someone farther down the list of priority decisionmakers trump someone higher up the list if that person can demonstrate that he or she knows the patient and the patient's wishes better.

Lesbians and gay men often move away from homophobic relatives and gay-unfriendly cities and towns to more supportive areas of the country, like Connecticut. All of them, not just those who marry, need laws that make it as likely as possible that the person they would pick will be able to visit them in the hospital and make their emergency health care decisions.

I've got more agenda items on my list. Unfortunately, there's no LGBT equality group in Connecticut to discuss them with.

crossposted from Beyond Straight and Gay Marriage.

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As I understand, from a friend and fellow activist in Canada, this is exactly what happened in Canada once the "marriage fight" was won. It's now very difficult, apparently, to get the same gays who fought for - and funded - marriage there to even bother to sit at the table when it comes to issues around poverty and queers, transgender immigrants, and so on.

I've been sceptical from the start about the "rising tide lifts all boats" argument that several pro-gay-marriage activists have made - that somehow the fight for marriage will make it easier for other struggles, or that gay marriage folks are inherently so progressive that they're not likely to abandon other issues. Some, perhaps, but the vast majority don't give a rat's ass about anything other than getting on the other side of that picket fence.

I want gay marriage to come and go, so that we can all achieve some clarity about the nature of this movement and its proponents.

Thanks for writing this. A friend of mine posted about Love Makes a Family disbanding, on facebook, and that was the first I'd heard about it. I expect other groups to do the same.

I think gay marriage is fine, it's a wonderful thing for those who wish to take advantage of it, but it should not overshadow other LGBTQ issues. Marriage is not the answer nor the quick fix to all that ails this world in regard to the LGBTQ population.

I saw that, too, and was thinking about writing something about it. Somehow I think (hope) that this is the cover story for the fact that they've got financial problems in this economy or something like that. Maybe I'm just deluding myself, but that possibility hurts a lot less than hearing that Love Makes A Family doesn't care about my family or our legal rights.

I love that they say, "we want to end on a high note" -- none of those messy struggles, no no to messy struggles!

So so true that, as you say, "marriage is the end point for many people and that achieving justice for the same-sex couples who don't marry and for all the gay men and lesbians, and their children, who are not partnered is not on the agenda."

kathygnome | April 5, 2009 9:52 AM

I commend them for disbanding. The last thing we need is more groups splitting the pie on available resources. Their purpose was marriage, they achieved it, now they can move on. The things you wish them to act for are all commendable, but there are lots of other organizations and no reason for this particular one to wander around looking for a new purpose.

Except, prof. polikoff, that Connecticut already has one of the best non-marital-status-tied laws available to allow any person -- including a brother or sister or non-marital partner -- a good number of important rights and benefits, including medical decision-making and disposition of remains. LMAF did that long before they did civil unions or marriage. See Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. ยงยง 1-56r, 45a-318, available at (at 5-6).

I don't know why you -- the expert in this field -- didn't already know that law, and aren't extolling it as a model.

To mgh-- EVERY state allows individuals to name anyone they want to make health care decisions and to designate a person to decide burial, etc. What I advocate, which Connecticut does not have, is a registry that is free, easy to use, becomes the cultural norm, and can be accessed by every hospital so that people don't need any other documents. Idaho is my model for that, although there are other states as well. The Lambda document does not recognize the importance of these registries. In fact, it does not even explain the Idaho resgistry, even though it includes reference to Idaho statutes.

I think your comment is awfully blithe. What CT has is clearly more expansive than the normal "power of attorney" or "health care proxy." It's one document that's signed and creates a number of rights that entities are required to respect.

Hospitals aren't required to keep a registry of marriages -- why should it be their job to keep a registry of any other type of domestic information. Further, do we really want hospitals keeping that sort of information? Doesn't that create a large number of privacy concerns?

(And, I wasn't extolling the entire lambda document, just using it for the text of the particular CT statute).

Am I reading this correctly? Does this mean that the GLB community has decided to withdraw from political activism BEFORE gender identity/expression are included in Connecticut's non discrimination law?

Tell me it ain't so! Please, because this would confirm my worst fears.

I would agree with you if Love Makes a Family were an LGBT rights group. They are not. Their purpose has always been to achieve marriage equality and, having fulfilled that purpose, they are disbanding. Criticizing them for not taking on issues outside of their mission is a little like criticizing GLSEN Connecticut (who rock!) for not working on repeal of DADT or bashing Immigration Equality for not putting more effort into passing Hate Crimes laws.

I echo kathygnome: good for them for disbanding and freeing up resources for other groups rather than continuing on just to perpetuate their own existence. I just hope that they are smart about it and share things like their mailing list, donor list, etc. with other orgs before they shut their doors.

This decision is such a prime example of the type of decision that is very dependent on local factors. LMF of CT has (had) a very narrow mission - and there are, in fact, other state-wide organizations working on LGBT issues (e.g., Connecticut Transadvocacy Coalition, True Colors, GLSEN, CWEALF, etc.) One of the reasons that LMF is disbanding is so that resources, volunteers, etc. can be dedicated to those other orgs rather than trying to reinvent the wheel in order to duplicate efforts. It was a local decision, based on in-state factors, by a local organization. Moreover, people who are LGBT are hardly the only ones who are not (and/or choose not to be) married - so I disagree that a statewide registry is a uniquely LGBT issue.