From winning contracts that extend healthcare coverage to same-sex partners and ensure that no worker can be fired from his or her job due to sexual orientation, SEIU has a long stood on the side of community, love, fairness and family. As the first international union to endorse marriage equality, SEIU is committed to defending all workers' rights to love whomever they choose.
As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear two cases challenging state and federal laws that identify marriage as a union between a man and a woman, we are reminded that the inability of same-sex couples to get equal protection and validation at the federal and state level is undoubtedly one of the greatest civil rights matters of our time.
Make no mistake, those who want to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8 only seek to divide us with the same rhetoric they've used against immigrants, the middle class, women's health and the LGBT community.
A law that ensures that workers with same-sex spouses earn less money, are taxed more on their wages and benefits and have fewer viable benefit options (Social Security, healthcare coverage, taxes) is discriminatory and has no place in our society. That is essentially what DOMA was intended to do.
Since most families get benefits (healthcare, retirement and disability insurance) through a family member's employment and since marital status primarily determines eligibility for these benefits and privileges, a federal law that stipulates marriage is only between a man and a woman essentially robs many LGBT families. Given that many of these families are also ineligible for state and federal programs that are the basic safety net of American society, these laws deprive same-sex married workers and their families of significant economic benefits and denies them their dignity.
The economic livelihood of an entire class of American workers and that of their family can no longer be undermined.
Both Proposition 8 and DOMA deny the right of Americans to participate in their communities as full-fledged citizens of the United States, and while there are more than 20 states (including the District of Columbia) that recognize some form of legal relationship between same-sex couples, same sex couples should not be accorded second class status anywhere in America.
The time is right for the Supreme Court to follow suit and recognize the will of the American people and affirm marriage equality.