On November 2nd, in addition to voting for the next President, residents of Michigan will also be voting on Proposal 2—also known as the Marriage Protection Act—an amendment to the state constitution that would ban same-sex marriages or a “similar union for any purpose.” This amendment would not only reinforce already existing Michigan laws that deny same-sex couples the right to marry, but it also effectively makes it illegal for companies or organizations to offer domestic partnership benefits to same-sex and heterosexual couples, which is something many companies do provide.
Opponents of same-sex marriage like to paint the issue as one of gays seeking “special rights” when the reality is that they’re simply seeking the same rights as heterosexuals. Getting married brings with it a huge number of automatic benefits under not just state law, but federal law as well. In fact, the GAO sat down and compiled a list of 1,049 laws in which marital status is a factor(PDF file) that grant all manner of rights and benefits. Gina Trapani over at Scribbling.net lists off some of the rights gay couples are being denied:
Hospital Visitation Rights
Married couples have the automatic right to visit each other in the hospital and make medical decisions. Same sex couples can be denied the right to visit a sick or injured partner in the hospital.
Terra and I are registered as domestic partners in New York City, which means we could visit one another in a hospital within the five boroughs. However, if we took a car trip across the bridge to New Jersey and got into an accident, we’re screwed.
Many public and private employers provide medical coverage to the legal spouses of their employees, but most employers do not provide coverage to the same-sex partners of their employees. LGBT employees who do receive health coverage for their same-sex partners must pay federal income taxes on the value of the insurance. Same-sex couples cannot even buy a family health insurance policy on the open market.
Terra’s employer does not include unmarried partners in their health coverage. As a result, since I’m self-employed, I pay about $350 a month for health insurance. A friend called this the “lesbian tax.”
Spousal privilege, granted to married couples, is the right of a person to refuse to testify against their spouse in the court of law.
That means if Terra was sued, I could be called on to testify against her. And every email, phonecall, letter, IM and conversation between us would not be protected by spousal privilege, and could be entered into evidence.
When a married person’s spouse dies, the survivor can automatically inherit a substantial share from the deceased spouse’s estate regardless of whether a will exists. Without marriage, a same-sex partner has no automatic right to inherit.
This means Terra and I have to write wills to guarantee either of us inherits from the other if one of us dies. How many people do you know under thirty who have a will?
Married workers in many workplaces are legally entitled to unpaid leave from their jobs to care for an ill spouse but workers with same-sex partners have no right to family leave.
After the death of a worker, most pension plans pay survivor benefits only to a legal spouse of the participant – so surviving same-sex partners get no pension support for their surviving partners. Any pension dies with the worker.
Married couples have a legal right to live together in nursing homes. An unmarried and elderly same-sex couple does not have the right to spend their final days together in a nursing home.
Laws protect married seniors from being forced to sell their homes to pay high nursing-home bills; seniors in same-sex relationships have no such protection. A non-married partner can be forced to sell his or her own house to repay a state lien for nursing home care. A non-married partner who lives in the home but does not own it could even be forced from the home to pay nursing home costs.
While a married person can roll over a deceased spouse’s 401(k) or IRA funds into an IRA without paying taxes, surviving partners in same-sex relationships must withdraw the entire amount, pay income taxes on it and also lose the tax deferral benefits of these accounts.
Estate taxes. A spouse who dies may leave an unlimited amount of property to the surviving spouse without paying any state or federal estate taxes. Without the benefit of marriage, any amount of property over the federal or state exclusion amounts is taxed.
Income tax. Every year, Terra and I are forced to file our taxes separately, as “single” people, ineligible for the tax benefits afforded to married couples.
Social Security benefits
Married people receive Social Security payments upon the death of a spouse. Despite paying payroll taxes, surviving partners in same-sex relationships receive no Social Security survivor benefits resulting in an average annual income loss of $5,528 upon the death of a partner.
That’s just 11 examples out of 1,049 laws. I’ve asked before if there was anyone who could provide me with one rational reason that doesn’t involve religion as to why gays shouldn’t be allowed to marry and the one person who tried fell back on unsubstantiated stereotypes. These laws are nothing more than good old fashioned discrimination at its worst.
If you live in Michigan, or any of the other states that will be voting on similar legislation come November, I urge you to make every effort to get out and vote to defeat these proposals. In Michigan you can learn more and offer to help the cause by visiting The Coalition for a Fair Michigan website. Plus you can order your own lawn signs.
Link found via ***Dave’s blog.