Thursday, May 3, 2012

At the moment I am frustrated with U.S. society because

I have a friend A. Friend A needs to quit her job due to health issues. Friend A is also a lesbian partnered with friend B. Friend A has two kids from a previous marriage, and lives in a state where same-sex marriage is illegal. Even if it were not, friend B works for an out-of-state institution that does not recognize same-sex partnerships. Therefore if friend A were to quit her job, friend B's institution would not provide health insurance--neither to the children nor to friend A, who has health issues as previously noted. (Friend A's ex is currently unemployed.) Note that in a heterosexual marriage, one partner can quit his/her job and pick up the health insurance of the spouse with no hassles or questions asked. In a same-sex partnership, in most states, it is a lot more complicated.

Let me interrupt this rant to congratulate companies and institutions that instituted same-sex benefits before any state forced them to do it, for example Microsoft, Apple, the ACLU, Google, Home Depot, American Airlines, JP Morgan Chase, and Johnson & Johnson. (This is a short list. There are many, many more.)

I want to say something to the people who use children as their rationale to oppose same-sex marriage or same-sex benefits. You are not helping the children. You are making things harder for the children, by putting a stigma on their families and by making health insurance difficult.

Let's move to a happier place where same-sex marriage is legal: Massachusetts. Rainbows and sunshine, right? Not at tax time. Take friend C. Friend C is legally married to friend D, but while the state of Massachusetts recognizes this, the United States does not. Friends C&D had to do their state taxes by filing a fake federal form listing themselves as a married couple, but then had to void that tax form and file separately as a single persons with the United States. The IRS flagged friend C, because he filed two different federal forms. Of course he did! He is not allowed to file as 'married' with the United States! The IRS has not set up guidelines for states with same-sex marriage, to help them figure out the best way to file taxes. [update: these hassles have lessened since I first posted this blog. Hurrray!]

Most of us heteros don't get to see these bureaucratic hassles. If you live in a state where same-sex marriage is not legal, you must draft a different agreement for each benefit that naturally accrues to a spouse. The right to inherit. The right to make medical decisions. The right to plan your partner's funeral. The right to have custody, partial custody, or visitation rights for your partner's children in the event your partner should die. If same-sex partners want all of these rights and more, they must pay a lawyer to draft them, which costs money. Married folks just pay for a license and voila--it all comes with that little piece of paper.

And then, even if you live in one of the 'lucky states' and have that little piece of paper, the United States does not recognize it. This affects your taxes, your overseas travel, your social security benefits, and much more.

I want to say that most people I know in same-sex partnerships are hesitant to blame the system for their bureaucratic problems. I don't know why this is. I am happy to blame the system, which is put in place and supported by our society. The system is stacked against people who deviate from the norm, and they are forced to jump through hoop after hoop just to keep their financial and insurance issues in order.

Many of us support same-sex marriage, but in the quiet way--only when asked, and without any effort. As a society we need to do the right thing and speak out for our friends and relatives. Call our senators and congressmen. Support measures that grant equal rights to same-sex partners. Only when enough of us insist upon the right thing can the right thing be done.