Gays Expand Battlefield; Activists Seek Rights for All Types of Families

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Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

After a decade of fighting for same-sex "marriage," some homosexual activists are breaking their silence to say it's time to fight for

benefits for all kinds of relationships.

Families and relationships "know no borders and will never slot narrowly into a single existing template," several activists said in a statement issued last month called "Beyond Marriage: A New Strategic Vision For All Our Families and Relationships."

Because marriage is "not the only worthy form of family or relationship," it "should not be legally or economically privileged above others," according to the statement, which was signed by 270 homosexual rights activists and heterosexual allies, such as Princeton University professor Cornel West and feminist icon Gloria Steinem.

Other kinds of relationships that they say deserve marriagelike benefits include senior citizens who aren't married but live together; single-parent families; blended families; "committed, loving households in which there is more than one conjugal partner"; "queer couples who decide to jointly create and raise a child with another queer person or couple, in two households"; and nonsexual cohabiters, such as friends or siblings, the statement said.

"A lot of people are being left out" in the same-sex "marriage" discussion because their families and relationships "don't fit" with marriage, said National Gay & Lesbian Task Force activist Amber Hollibaugh, one of 18 drafters of the statement.

Universal benefits are needed because "nobody's family should be excluded from what it needs in order to survive and prosper," she said.

"People deserve .. rights and protections just because they're people," said Joseph DeFilippis, leader of Queers for Economic Justice and another drafter of the statement, which is available at www.beyondmarriage.org.

The Beyond Marriage statement has attracted tremendous interest and support hundreds of e-mails are pouring in from people asking to sign it, said Mr. DeFilippis. It touched a nerve, he added, because it finally says publicly what many homosexual, bisexual and transgendered activists were saying privately.

But some observers, both homosexual and heterosexual, are alarmed by the statement's sweeping agenda.

The Beyond Marriage "manifesto" may be well-intentioned, but it undermines one of the homosexual rights movement's best arguments, which is that it's unfair and wrong to allow heterosexual couples to marry, but not homosexual couples, Washington Blade executive editor Chris Crain wrote in a recent column.

"What's more," he wrote, calling for benefits and recognition for any kind of family group "really is the radical redefinition of marriage and family that the conservatives have been braying about for so long."

"Realizing the Right's worst fears is the last thing that our movement needs to do at this critical juncture."

Mr. DeFilippis rejected Mr. Crain's criticism.

"We are just reflecting reality. We live in complicated ways," he said. Pretending that certain aspects of the homosexual community don't exist "just further disempowers" them. …