*Disclaimer: I believe that marriage is a right that belongs to every consenting adult. I support state, federal, and international recognition of same-sex and different-sex marriages as well as the marriages of those that do not fit into binominal gender categories.
However I have had many conversations with people who are against the government’s recognition of same-sex marriages. It is important to understand where they are coming from. In parts of this entry I present common arguments against same-sex marriage in a -hopefully- unbiased manner. I don’t want to offend anyone but I do wish to respectfully summarize the opposing view before pointing out their flaws.
In the last election, four states voted on the issue of whether to legally recognize marriages between two members of the same sex. This discussion has been a public issue in the United States since the peak of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) rights movement in the 1980s and continues to hold national interest as states pass and reject laws regarding same-sex marriage. Because marriage is the basis of the family structure its definition holds many legal as well as social implications. Adoption procedures, child custody cases, and taxes are only some of the instances in which the legal recognition of marriage is a deciding factor. The question is one of opposing moralities – the immorality of threatening the family institution against the immorality of denying gay men and women the right to marry.
Recognition of the rights of LGBT americans and people around the world is slowly increasing. However people are still being attacked, jailed, and humiliated because of something as intrinsic as love and attraction.
And most importantly… Talk to people! You can be an advocate for marriage equality. It is the personal conversations we have that creates change in the world. Don’t shy away from the discussion of same-sex marriage.
Contrary to these arguments are supporters of same sex marriages who argue that anti-discrimination laws did not go far enough in creating equality among different sexual orientations. By not allowing gay men and women to enter same sex marriages the government is denying them rights given to heterosexual couples. Even in states which allow same sex marriages, discrimination will not be eliminated until the federal government acknowledges those marriages.
The lack of federal acknowledgment is discriminatory because it prevents married gay men and women from having the 1,138 federal rights given to heterosexual marriages including:
Social Security benefits upon death, disability or retirement of spouse, as well as benefits for minor children.
Family and Medical Leave protections to care for a new child or sick/ injured family member.
Workers’ Compensation protections for the family of a worker injured on the job.
Access to COBRA insurance benefits so the family doesn’t lose health insurance when one spouse is laid off.
Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) protections such as the ability to leave a pension, other than Social Security, to your spouse.
Exemptions from penalties on IRA and pension rollovers.
Exemptions from estate taxes when a spouse dies.
Exemptions from federal income taxes on spouse’s health insurance.
The right to visit a sick or injured loved one, have a say in life and death matters during hospitalization 11
Even state level civil unions fail to recreate these rights to any extent because there is no state level equivalent. Social Security benefits, tax exemptions, shared property rights, and decision making/ visitation rights during hospitalization are real consequences of federally recognized marriage. These inequalities affect the quality of life of same sex families by preventing children and spouses from having access to extended healthcare insurance provided by the other spouse’s employment, a right protected for heterosexual marriages. Continue reading →