A Focus on Older Couples in Arguments on Marriage Equality

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SAGE was particularly gratified, during yesterday’s historic Supreme Court arguments on marriage equality, to hear several Justices repeatedly refer to the importance of marriage to older couples, while the Justices questioned the attorneys arguing the marriage cases.

As SAGE pointed out in its recent amicus brief to the Supreme Court, marriage equality is critically important to many LGBT older people.  That’s because, contrary to the arguments of the States defending discrimination against same-sex couples, marriage has never been primarily or exclusively about children and procreation.  This cramped view, repeatedly questioned in yesterday’s arguments, disregards and devalues the many older couples – both LGBT and heterosexual – who have compelling reasons to marry even though they cannot and will not procreate.

In fact, as SAGE’s brief to the Court points out, many LGBT older people who are coupled face severe vulnerabilities in old age when it comes to financial security, caregiving, isolation, health care, and community support.  Marriage can be an important means to address these issues.  Moreover, marriage equality is the right of every older same-sex couple, many of whom have endured decades of discrimination because of who they love.  We at SAGE are grateful that older couples featured so prominently in yesterday’s arguments.  As in the Windsor decision, we are hopeful that the example and leadership of our LGBT elder pioneers will once again be an important part of the formula that helps the Supreme Court embrace full equality for LGBT Americans.

— Michael Adams, Executive Director of SAGE