Talking About Marriage
The single most important action you can take towards achieving the freedom to marry nationwide is talking with friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors about why marriage matters to you.
How to Start a Conversation
It's best to think through your conversation about marriage before starting, and remember, it may take several conversations to help people rethink their objections. Fortunately, most Americans genuinely want to do the right thing, they just need help to work through the conflicts they are experiencing. Keep in mind: patience is key to changing hearts and minds.
Tell Us How It Goes
Email us about your conversations, what you discussed, and what worked for you.
Who to Talk to
First things first: check all assumptions at the door. Just because you THINK that someone might support the freedom to marry does not mean they do. Likewise, people you know may assume that you don't care about the issue, because you have not discussed it with them. Either way, achieving equality for same-sex couples is too important to leave up to a hunch. Think of people from all aspects of your life, and start a list on paper. Some categories could be family, neighbors, classmates, fellow moms and dads, teammates, people you do business with regularly, etc. Once you've made a list, put a * next to the three people you think would be most supportive. Plan to talk with them first, then work your way down the list.
Where to start
Marriage for same-sex couples is a tough issue for many Americans, so the best way to approach the conversation is from a calm and understanding perspective. Your goal is to try and understand where the person is coming from and share your experiences and thoughts. Starting a conversation about marriage can happen numerous ways: make a date to talk with someone over coffee or tea, wait for conversation to touch on personal stories about relationships or life situations, or take advantage to talk about current events. After the topic comes up, the best way to continue is to patiently listen to the person's view on the freedom to marry first, and ask questions if needed to try and understand more about where they are coming from. It's a good idea to repeat back to them some of the concerns or values they share. "It sounds like you are concerned that..." or "You're saying that xxxx is really important to you."
What to say
Once you've fully listened to their thoughts, offer your own personal experience and where you are coming from. Give the person space to disagree, but feel free to share that this issue is important to you, and that you are always available to answer questions or talk further. In order to change hearts and minds, it's usually best to use these three approaches:
1.) Create an emotional connection by emphasizing common ground—reference the key words they used in talking about marriage, like love, commitment, sharing a life together.
- Ask why they got married (if appropriate) and share your own hopes about marriage (I grew up dreaming of getting married to the person I love. Why should that change, just because I'm gay or for someone who is gay?).
- Marriage is about committed couples who want to make a lifelong promise to take care of and be responsible for each other- that's true of same-sex couples, too. Straight and gay couples want to marry for the same reasons, to build a life with the person they love. Both need the security and legal protections of marriage that help make this possible.
- Many same-sex couples stay together for years and not only face discrimination, but many other challenges. In spite of these challenges, these couples remain courageous in the face of opposition and deeply committed to building happy lives together.
- Tradition is important in our family. That's why we've invited out son/daughter's partner to be a part of our family traditions and celebrations.
2.) Illustrate the concrete harms of being shut out of marriage.
- Denying committed couples the security and legal protections of marriage hurts them.
- Imagine what it would be like to not be able to visit the person you love in the hospital, make medical decisions for them, or use family leave to take care of your loved one?
- Think about it- what if you were told that you couldn't marry the person you loved? How would that make you feel or change your relationship, your future plans and your life? Worse yet, what if you got married, and someone tried to take it away?
- Domestic partnership and civil union don't provide the same security as marriage. They exclude people from marriage and create an unfair system that often does not work in emergency situations when people need it most.
- Many same-sex couples are raising families- and it's wrong for the children of those families to be shut out of marriage.
3.) Affirm people’s desire to do the right thing
- We may not all agree on this issue, but that doesn't mean we should make it hard for committed gay couples to take care of each other.
- Discrimination is wrong no matter who is affects. We must work together to fight against discrimination, wherever it appears. Today it's marriage.
- People can have different beliefs and still treat everyone fairly. That's why our constitution exists- to protect everyone equally, including minorities.
- Your church (or religion) may not approve of marriage for same-sex couples- and that's okay. No religious institution will be forced to marry people against their own beliefs. But we're talking about civil marriage, and the right of couples to go to City Hall- or to one of the many churches that is willing to marry same-sex couples.
- It is not for me to judge other people. Just because I disapprove of something does not mean that people's rights should be taken away.
- Two people in a committed, trusting and loving relationship deserve the dignity and support that come with marriage.
Ending the Conversation
"Thanks for talking to me about this -- I realize it might have felt like a difficult conversation. I just want you to know how important this is to me. So feel free to let me know if you have any questions, and let's keep in touch about this every so often." "I'm hoping that after this conversation, you'll keep an open mind and look for more information and news stories on this topic."
If the person you spoke with raised a question or concern that you felt you didn’t fully answer, send them a note or email with a link to Freedom to Marry’s website, or an article that you come across that will answer their question.
Things to avoid
- Don’t say “gay marriage” or “same-sex marriage”—we’re not creating a new kind of marriage
- Don’t focus on “rights” or “benefits -” most people don’t think about marriage this way.
- Don’t use opponents’ language—no one is trying to “redefine” marriage.
- Don’t talk about “deserving” or “demanding” marriage.
- “Talking About Marriage and Relationship Recognition for Gay Couples” by GLAAD & MAP
- “Conversation Starters” by Let California Ring