Politifact RI rules "1,700 rights to marriage" claim "Barely True"


Back in 2004 Josh Baker at the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy examined the claim that civil marriage confers 1,138 distinct benefits and rights. Here was one of his conclusions:

"... a preliminary analysis clearly shows that the claim there are “1,138 federal marriage benefits” is simply incorrect ... Couples who marry expecting to receive “1000 federal marriage benefits” are likely to be disappointed."

The only thing that has changed since 2004 is that now gay marriage groups are claiming even more benefits and rights are attached to marriage: 1,700 is the new number some use.

This week the Associated Press picked up on a Politifact RI review which ruled that this claim about 1,700 benefits is "Barely True." Some highlights from their review:

... we were surprised to discover that the GAO had simply done a search of the U.S. Code to identify laws that use words or word fragments like "marr" (for marriage), "spouse," "widow" or "survivor."

In fact, the report itself cautions that "some of these laws may not directly create benefits, rights, or privileges." It also warns that "no conclusions can be drawn … concerning the effect of the law on married people versus single people. A particular law may create either advantages or disadvantages for those who are married, or may apply to both married and single people."

... out of the 45 federal and state laws we examined, 31 clearly offer a benefit for someone who is married. But under 3 other laws, a married person may actually face a disadvantage. And in the remaining 11 cases, it doesn't appear that the distinction affects people's rights at all, a fact the GAO itself acknowledged when listing federal statutes.

... To assert that any law referring to "marriage" or "spouse" or "divorce" or a comparable term marks a point of discrimination and, as a result, warrants inclusion on the list strikes us as a stretch.

Politifact RI's conclusion: "when numbers like these are thrown around, we expect advocates to have more to back them up than a rudimentary word search that fails to say what right or benefit might be at stake."


  1. James Duffy
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Does the National Organization for Marriage know what the true number is? It is my understanding that the number of legal benefits, protections, and responsibilities that are accorded to married couples by the federal government number 1,138 according to the GAO. Is this true or not? And if not, what is the number? Maybe NOM can do some research.

  2. Ken
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I love the fact that NOM is trying to emphasize the benefits marriage provides to same-sex couples in the 10am post and trying to minimize them at 11:45. Too funny.

  3. Barb
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Thanks NOM for clarifying the false statements being made by gay marriage groups...very useful.

  4. Gothelittle
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Ken, do you also find it amusing that SSM advocates are emphasizing the legal benefits, protections, and responsibilities of marriage when trying to argue that they need it, and minimizing them when they try to argue that SSM will not affect traditional marriage, state law, federal law, and society as a whole?

  5. mama5
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Important to remember that before the government, there was marriage. Marriage, even without federal or state benefits, still benefits society, as it contributes to the common good of our dual-gendered society, and puts the needs of the most vulnerable members of society (children) first. No other human pairing accomplishes so much good to society, as marriage between a man and a woman.

  6. Tom
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Permalink


    "No other human pairing accomplishes so much good to society, as marriage between a man and a woman."

    So what you are essentially saying is that even bad straight relationship is better than a good same sex relationship. Britney Spears 24 hour marriage is better than my 20-year relationship with the man I love? A straight couple that sits around on the sofa is better than a gay couple that volunteers doing work for the homeless? A couple that is singularly or mutually abusive is better than two men who are deeply in love?

    Not all couples rear children. If the welfare of children is NOM's biggest argument, why is it not going after people who cannot have children but still want to marry?

  7. Tom
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    Those who are against same-sex marriage have still not been able to provide a coherent or verifiable response when asked the simple question "How will society be harmed?"

  8. L. Marie
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Weakening marriage always harms society Tom. All kids deserve a mom and a dad.

  9. Ken
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    "Weakening marriage always harms society Tom"

    But legalizing same-sex marriage doesn't weaken marriage so your statement doesn't justify your opposition to marriage equality.

  10. L. Marie
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Redefining marriage into oblivion certainly does weaken marriage.

  11. Tom
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    @L Marie - HOW does it weaken marriage? Please note that I am looking for a COHERENT and VERIFIABLE answer. Both of your response have offered neither.

    Once again, how does it weaken marriage?

  12. L. Marie
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Is the fact that two men have different genders and capacities than a man and a woman verifiably different for you? How basic can you get?

  13. L. Marie
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    The thing I find hilarious actually is that you think they are the same. Verify that. lol.

  14. Don
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Tom and Ken:

    Marriage isn't marriage at all if it is redefined as also being between people of the same sex. I would say that destroying marriage certainly constitues "weakening" it.

  15. Tom
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    @Don - I am looking for a coherent (logic, consistent) and verifiable (can be proven) response.

    "Marriage isn't marriage at all if it is redefined as also being between people of the same sex."

    Marriage has been redefined all through the ages.

    I would say that destroying marriage certainly constitues "weakening" it.

    Just because you say something is destroyed does not make it so. How can you verify that it will be destroyed?

    @L Marie - Your line of thinking isn't anywhere in the context of the basic question "How does it weaken marriage?"

  16. L. Marie
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Fishing for something other than the truth Tom? Two men can never equal a mom.

  17. Tom
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    @L Marie - You are proving my point. Nobody can offer a coherent and verifiable response.

    I am fishing for the truth. Does it weaken marriage if a couple is childless through lack of ability? Based on your response, both can never equal a mom.

    Marriage is not solely for procreation. Not all people that get married have kids. For some it is a conscious decision. For others it is for lack of abiliity (too old, sterile). If you believe that procreation is the main reason for marriage, why would we not mandate that all who get married must have children?

  18. TC Matthews
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Why mandate when encourage is enough? Tom, would you like to live in a totalitarian society? I wouldn't. Marriage encourages responsible procreation.

  19. L. Marie
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    I know this somewhat goes against your dogma Tom, but men are not women. It's completely verifiable.

  20. Don
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Permalink


    Well maybe the reason that you aren't seeing what you are looking is that you are myopic.

    I don't give a rat's patootie if marriage has been "redefined through the ages". We are not living "through the ages", we are living in the here and now. Furthermore, marriage has never, "through the ages", been redefined as being between too people of the same sex. Is that cogent enough for you, Tom?

    Just because you say that something ISN'T so doesn't mean that it is NOT so. Marriage has been defined as between one man and one woman. Changing that to include being between two people of the same sex completely nullifies marriage as we know it.

    You're dismissed and can run along home now.

  21. Tom
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    @TC - Of course I don't want to live in a totalitarian state, but if we are saying that procreation is a condition of marriage, then all who marry must have children. Unless of course, procreation is not a condition for getting married.

    I think it is wonderful (and I agree) that marriage encourages responsible procreation, but I don't see any proof that allowing same-sex marriage would hamper that encouragement.

    Back to the original (and still unanswered) question... How does same sex marriage weaken straight marriage?

  22. Tom
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    L Marie - It is also verifiable that the Earth is a sphere, but that does nothing to answer my question.

    The fact that men aren't women does not answer the question. How does that weaken marriage? Where is the weakness? What is this elusive bad thing that is going to happen? What is the proof that this bad thing will happen?

  23. Don
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Permalink


    Let me give you something REALLY cogent to focus on.

    You just failed in your attempt to sabotage religious adoption agencies in Virginia.

    You failed in your attempt to get homosexual "marriage" legislated into existence in Maryland.

    Prior to that, you failed in your attempt to get homosexual "marriage" legislated into existence in Maine.

    Prior to that, you failed to keep Prop 8 off the ballot in California as you said you would.

    When Prop 8 went to a vote, you failed to defeat it as you said you would.

    Despite the best efforts of Judge Walker and the "Dream Team" you still cannot, to this very minute, marry someone of the same sex in California.

    You can rant on all you want in this blog but the fact is that you have failed repeatedly in your efforts. Your agenda is biting the dust from coast to coast. So rant on all you want. Your ship is sinking.

  24. Eric
    Posted April 21, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    LOL, Don! Seems like you're the one ranting! LOL! ;-)

  25. Gothelittle
    Posted April 22, 2011 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    "How does same-sex marriage weaken straight marriage?"

    Back in the days before we knew what a virus was, parents already knew how to quarantine their kids when someone in the neighborhood had measles. How did they know? How could they prove it? Whenever kids played with a kid who had measles, those kids came down with the same disease.

    Look at Holland for a prime example... ten years after SSM was legalized, fewer and fewer Dutch heterosexual couples are getting married. The way I heard it from a Dutch friend of mine was, "Why bother getting married? What does it mean anymore?"

    Now I could go into a full psychological, physical, sociological, and historical essay on how SSM hurts marriage, and then you could nitpick every single point I made into oblivion and walk off the nearest cliff secure in your own invulnerability. But I'll settle for this:

    Only someone who doesn't want to believe that measles may be contagious would continue to expose his children to them when doing so in other communities has reliably resulted in more children dying of measles.

    Only someone who doesn't want to believe that SSM will affect marriage would continue to assert that he NEEDS A REASON beyond simply watching it happen in other countries.

    Someone who is that willing to hold to his beliefs would not change even if God Himself parted the clouds, reached down His hand, and said "YES IT WILL". So how can a simple person sway you with psychological/physical/sociological/historical essays?

  26. Mike Brooks
    Posted April 22, 2011 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Tom -

    Your argument about non-procreating heterosexual couples misses the point: Procreation is not a prerequisite for marriage; procreation is the reason that marriage exists in the first place.

    If men and women did not procreate, there would be no marriage, no coupling of humans. Why is marriage between two people (and not 3 or more?) Because two and only two people are required to make a baby. Why is marriage for male and female? Because only male-female couples CAN make babies. Why isn't the union between two people of the same gender not a marriage? Because the combination of male-male or female-female can NEVER make a baby.

    Because marriage is such an important societal institution for its stability and perpetuation; and for assuring that children are raised by their moms and dads, we allow known non-procreating couples to marry because they do no harm to heterosexual marriage and because they promote heterosexual unions by their mere presence. (Indeed, the only reason homosexuals demand marriage is because they are imitating heterosexual couples!)

    In the same way that heterosexual married couples encourage heterosexual marriages and help assure that children have their moms and dads (and that moms and dads take responsiblity for their offspring), homosexual "marriage" discourages heterosexual pairings (and encourages children to experiment with homosexual pairings). Whereas every heterosexual couple suggest the presence of or the promise of offspring by virtue of the genders involved (regardless of whether they have or are actually capable of producing offspring), homosexual couples always represent NO OFFSPRING.

    SSM "marriage" says that marriage has NOTHING to do with procreation. And if marriage is perceived to have nothing to do with procreation, then heterosexuals who would otherwise get married with the intent of having kids will have kids without getting married. And without the commitment of marriage to keep parents together, many children will be deprived of a mom a dad or both. Single motherhood will increase, and increased single motherhood means increased need for government support and increased child poverty.

    Moreover, breaking the link between marriage nad procreation encourages claims that children do not need their parents (witness the bogus lesbian "studies" conducted by lesbians with biased data and biased endpoints that claim to demonstrate equivalence of kids brought up in lesbian households with 2-parent households).

  27. Ken
    Posted April 22, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    We're talking about how the law should change, not how your perception of what's ideal should change. There is no requirement in the law that married couples produce offspring in order to maintain their marital status nor are couples that do produce children required to marry. Legally, marriage and procreation are already separated in the law (and have been for centuries) so the claim that same-sex marriage will cause this separation is false. Yes, in most cases, married opposite sex couples have the ability to make babies. But many of them won't, either by choice or by circumstance. And there are many straight couples who are unable to have children and will remain child free, use surrogates or donors, or adopt but their marriages are still legally indistinguishable from those couples with biological children. Same-sex couples may fall into any of those three categories too but, unlike the straight couples in identical circumstances, you think the law should ignore their relationships because they're not "ideal". You're free to believe in whatever ideals you want but the law does not exist to reinforce your idea of a perfect world. It's ideal when couples have the financial, physical and emotional resources to raise children before they do so. I think it's ideal if people are college educated, mature, have a healthy relationship with their partner, and live in a safe neighborhood before they start a family but I'd never suggest that those conditions be enshrined into the constitution. As badly as you want to rationalize your opposition to marriage equality, the fact is that our country doesn't outlaw things just because some people believe they're not ideal.

  28. John Noe
    Posted April 22, 2011 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    Tom: Who says that Don and the great NOM ladies have not answered your post. You chose to ignore it, even if it is right, then want more answers. It is obvious that you are pre set in your ways.
    Now here is something that Don and the ladies did not do but is a fact in debates nonetheless. The burdon of proof is not on us at NOM to prove no harm by allowing SSM but on you.
    It is the homosexual activists who want to make the change. Therefore they are responsible for the burdon of proof on two things.

    (1) Prove that SSM benefits society as a whole and not just the convience of homosexual rights.

    (2) It is you who must prove that society will not be harmed by allowing SSM because the burdon of proof is on the group seeking to radically change things. Since we here at NOM want to keep marriage as it is, we are not obligated to provide any proof against your questions.

  29. Chairm
    Posted April 22, 2011 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    Tom may society discriminate between marriage and other types of lining arrangements and types of domestic relationships? And why?

    I anticipate that your proSSM view lacks coherency.
    But you might surprise.

  30. Don
    Posted April 22, 2011 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    The homosexual activists here want to discuss the irrelevant and seek, at all costs, to avoid the elephant in the living room.

    You lost in Virginia.

    You lost in Maryland.

    You lost in Maine.

    You lost in Colorado.

    You failed to keep Prop 8 off the ballot in California.

    You lost the vote on Prop 8 in California.

    You still can't marry someone of the same sex in California.

    All of your rhetoric amounts to rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking Titanic.

  31. TC Matthews
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 3:41 am | Permalink

    Ken, it's not a matter of "outlaw"ing ssm. SSM has never been the law of the land. Ever. The question is, should it? I have been unconvinced by your arguments in favor of it so far. The cost to children, families and society is too great.

  32. kieran
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink


    We won in Massachusetts. We won in Iowa.

    Your rhetoric is nothing more than the vestiges of an antiquated homophobic society.

  33. John N.
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Permalink


    On behalf of Don who I admire greatly I will answer the question for him because I live in MA. Your victory in MA was a sham and was the result of lying and cheating and not winning fair and square.

    In the state of Massachusetts the homosexual activists DELIBERATELY AND WILLFULLY bypassed the people and Legislature and cry babied their way to the court house. They did not want to face the people so they went looking for activist judges who of course are not elected and are accountable to no one. They used clever legal tricks and the deciding vote was cast by the head judge who stood to personally gain from the decision. Like that phony judge Walker she refused to recuse herself.
    When the people wanted to vote, the homosexual activists blocked the legal and constitutional right of the right of the people to vote.

    So you see Don is right. You have always lost when forced to play fair and square. In Massachusetts and Iowa you got to lie and cheat by using the courts and bypassing the will of the people. Oh and in Iowa your judges lost the election.

  34. Don
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 12:37 am | Permalink


    Hi, Kieran. You're the one who said, and I quote, "God is abnormal because he exists outside of nature." Yes, you are the person who thinks that God is abnormal but that homosexuality is normal. I guess that's all we really need to know.

  35. John Noe
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    To Gothelitte and Mike Brooks: I really appreciated your posts in posts #25 and #26.
    Gothelitte proved the damage from SSM. We have already seen from other posts that SSM advocates care only about their selfish desires rather than what is best for society.
    Breaking news: The two posts prove that homosexuals actually benefit from traditional marriage even though they do not want to admit it. Do you not realize that they benefit from marriage as is. While they produce no offspring, the male/female unions do and their offspring pay the Social Security and Medicare taxes that Ken and the others will rely on when they are old. But they will not admit it.
    Mike what can I say about post #26. It is not the people like Ken we need to win over, but that great middle of Americia who is undecided, open minded, and waiting to be convinced. Whoever wins this group wins the battle. This is why I so appreciate your great posts.

  36. Tom
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    @John - You said... "Breaking news: The two posts prove that homosexuals actually benefit from traditional marriage even though they do not want to admit it. Do you not realize that they benefit from marriage as is."

    I don't believe that anyone ever said they did not benefit from traditional marriage. And once again, you are off topic. There is a big difference between saying that heterosexual marriage benefits society and same sex marriage harms society.