Questions about Same-Sex Marriage
Since the rise of a national discussion about marriage rights for same-sex couples, many straight friends and family members have been asking important questions about the issue. This section provides some basic answers to those questions, such as: Why do same-sex couples want to marry?
Many same-sex couples want the right to legally marry because they are in love — many, in fact, have spent the last 10, 20 or 50 years with that person — and they want to honor their relationship in the greatest way our society has to offer, by making a public commitment to stand together in good times and bad, through all the joys and challenges family life brings. Many parents want the right to marry because they know it offers children a vital safety net and guarantees protections that unmarried parents cannot provide. And still other people — both gay and straight — are fighting for the right of same-sex couples to marry because they recognize that it is simply not fair to deny some families the protections all other families are eligible to enjoy. Currently in the United States, same-sex couples in long-term, committed relationships pay higher taxes and are denied basic protections and rights granted to married straight couples. Among them: •
Hospital visitation. 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 loved one in the hospital. •
Social Security benefits. Married people receive Social Security payments upon the death of a spouse. Despite paying payroll taxes, gay and lesbian partners receive no Social Security survivor benefits — resulting in an average annual income loss of $5,528 upon the death of a partner. •
Immigration. Americans in bi-national relationships are not permitted to petition for their same-sex partners to immigrate. As a result, they are often forced to separate or move to another country. •
Health insurance. Many public and private employers provide medical coverage to the spouses of their employees, but most employers do not provide coverage to the life partners of gay and lesbian employees. Gay and lesbian employees who do receive health coverage for their partners must pay federal income taxes on the value of the insurance. •
Estate taxes. A married person automatically inherits all the property of his or her deceased spouse without paying estate taxes. A gay or lesbian taxpayer is forced to pay estate taxes on property inherited from a deceased partner. •
Family leave. Married workers are legally entitled to unpaid leave from their jobs to care for an ill spouse. Gay and lesbian workers are not entitled to family leave to care for their partners. •
Nursing homes. Married couples have a legal right to live together in nursing homes. The rights of elderly gay or lesbian couples are an uneven patchwork of state laws. Home protection. Laws protect married seniors from being forced to sell their homes to pay high nursing home bills; gay and lesbian seniors have no such protection. •
Home protection. Laws protect married seniors from being forced to sell their homes to pay high nursing home bills; gay and lesbian seniors have no such protection. •
Pensions. After the death of a worker, most pension plans pay survivor benefits only to a legal spouse of the participant. Gay and lesbian partners are excluded from such pension benefits. Why aren’t civil unions enough?
Comparing marriage to civil unions is a bit like comparing diamonds to rhinestones. One is, quite simply, the real deal; the other is not. Consider: Opposite-sex couples who are eligible to marry may have their marriage performed in any state and have it recognized in every other state in the nation and every country in the world. Couples who are joined in a civil union, for example in Vermont, New Jersey or New Hampshire, have no guarantee that its protections will travel with them...
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