Unfortunately, people in same-sex marriages may be put at a disadvantage. Upon hearing someone is in a same-sex marriage, some individuals may choose to discriminate against them. It is typically unlawful for individuals or businesses to discriminate against a same-sex couple. Everyone who wishes to be in a same-sex marriage has the right to be, but, they should know their rights to protect themselves from same-sex marriage disadvantages. Knowing one’s rights as a same-sex couple allows them to protect themselves and take legal action against discrimination.

Refusal of Services: A Disadvantage of Same-Sex Marriage

Upon hearing that customers are in a same-sex marriage or relationship, some businesses may refuse service or discriminate against them. California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibits any company from participating in illegal discrimination against all people where the discrimination is based partly on an individual’s sex, gender, and sexual orientation. This act includes discriminating against same-sex couples. Essentially, it is illegal for private and public California businesses to discriminate against couples because of their sexual orientation. Examples of companies that fall under this law include the following:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Retail and grocery stores

However, it is worth noting that under California Business and Professions Code 125.6, sexual orientation is not a protected characteristic. This code applies to individuals who are licensed to render services. In essence, a business’s ability and right to refuse services depends on whether or not the company demands licensure to provide services or if it is a public business establishment, such as those listed above.

Hate Crimes and Same-Sex Marriage

Same-sex marriage disadvantages may include hate crimes. The California Office of the Attorney General states that a hate crime is a display of violence motivated by the aggressor’s displeasure with the victim’s protected social group. Protected social groups include sexual orientation. In some instances, attackers may target people in a same-sex marriage and put them at a disadvantage or higher risk for hate crimes.

If you and your partner are the victims of a hate crime, it is best to:

  • Contact law enforcement
  • Seek medical attention, if necessary.
  • Remember essential details of what the attacker said and did
  • Make a note of any evidence that may be helpful
  • If possible, contact a lawyer and file suit or petition for a restraining order

Employment Discrimination and Same Sex Marriage

In some instances, an employer may discriminate against someone if they find out an employee is in a same-sex marriage. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on sex and sexual orientation, and discriminating against someone for being in a same-sex marriage falls under this category. This law also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because they complained about discrimination or filed a charge of discrimination. Thus, while employers may choose to discriminate against those in the LGBTQ+ community, there is legal recourse for same-sex marriage disadvantages a couple suffers.

Title VII prohibits discriminatory actions towards protected groups, including the following activities:

  • Hiring
  • Firing
  • Work training
  • Testing
  • Work assignments
  • Job transfer
  • Discipline
  • Salary
  • Overtime pay
  • Retirement plans
  • Leave and benefits
  • Use of company facilities

Suppose an employer has discriminated against someone for being in a same-sex marriage using any above methods. Then, it may be in one’s interest to contact a lawyer and file a lawsuit to recover damages. Complaints under Title II of the Civil Rights Act are the responsibility of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Department of Justice can prosecute its enforcement and perform investigations. There are legal actions of recourse for same-sex marriage disadvantages in the workplace!

If the employer has a religious affiliation, it may be more challenging to prove that they are discriminating against a current or prospective employee for being in a same-sex marriage. The difficulty is that they can argue that same-sex marriage is against their religious beliefs. However, if they deny employee employment benefits because of their same-sex marriage, it is more simple to prove against Title VII.

Some may ask if it is lawful for an employer to make disparaging comments about one’s same-sex marriage. In some instances, this may be illegal, but it depends on the nature of the words. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that simple teasing or isolated incidents may not be prohibited. However, the law does prohibit harassment, so if the disparaging comments are frequent and create a hostile work environment or result from an adverse employment decision, it should be banned.

Housing Discrimination and Same-Sex Marriage

Upon finding out their tenants are a same-sex couple, a landlord might be discriminative. It is unlawful for landlords to deny someone housing because of their sexual orientation, and because of this, prospective tenants of the same sex fall under this umbrella.

California Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibit those involved in the housing business from discriminating against prospective or current tenants or homeowners because of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Acts of discrimination may include some of the following:

  • Refusal to sell, rent or lease a space
  • Refusal to negotiate
  • Cancellation or termination of a sale or rental agreement
  • Offering inferior terms and conditions
  • Refusal to make reasonable accommodations
  • Retaliation against an individual for filing a complaint
  • Overly restrictive rules

If a landlord indicates that they will not rent their property to a same-sex couple, there may be grounds to file a lawsuit. It is best to contact a lawyer and figure out the best path forward.


While there are specific criteria that agencies or birth parents may look for in prospective parents, California adoption agencies cannot discriminate against same-sex couples. In adoptions where the birth parents are involved, California Family Code 8801 stipulates that the child’s birth parents shall make the selection of prospective adoptive parents, and they may consider factors such as:

  • Length of marriage
  • Employment
  • Criminal history
  • Home environment

While they may take in the above factors, it is unlawful for birth parents to discriminate against same-sex couples. Suppose one believes that an agency or couple is denying them adoption privileges because they are in a same-sex marriage. If so, it would be in their best interest to contact an attorney and file a suit.

However, unfortunately, some countries do not allow same-sex parents to adopt in international adoptions. If you are considering adoption, it is in your interest to talk with an attorney and see what options are available.

Contact Pride Legal

If you or a loved one are suffering from same-sex marriage disadvantages, we invite you to contact us at Pride Legal for legal counseling or any further questions. To protect your rights, hire someone who understands them.

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