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Imagine if tomorrow, Congress enacted a law denying Jews the right to raise children together in a legally protected relationship. Or if by act of law, African-American couples who had lived together for years would no longer be permitted joint filing of tax returns, joint policies for their home, health or auto insurance.

Of course, this is a daily reality for millions of gay Americans. While it may not be readily apparent, marriage comes with a host of legal rights — 1,049 to be exact,1 ranging from the ability to collect Social Security survivor’s benefits to the right not to have to testify against a spouse in court. Listed below is a small sampling of some of these rights and benefits, each of which are currently denied to gay couples:

The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.

– U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, writing for the majority in Loving v. Virginia

Priority in being appointed guardian of an incapacitated spouse or in being recognized as acting for an incapacitated spouse in making health care decisions The right to invoke special state protection for “intrafamily offenses.” The right to receive, or the obligation to provide, spousal support and (in the event of divorce) alimony and an equitable division of property. The right to receive additional Social Security benefits based on a spouse’s contribution. The right to spousal benefits guaranteed to public employees, including health insurance, life insurance and disability payments, plus similar contractual benefits for private sector employees. The right to survivor’s benefits following the death of a veteran spouse. Numerous rights relating to the involuntary hospitalization of a spouse, including the right to be notified, and the right to initiate proceedings leading to release.

The right to conjugal visits with a spouse...
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