In a few weeks, I hope to begin officiating weddings for all couples here in Mid-Michigan. When (not if) the U.S. Supreme Court rules Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, I will be running to the Midland County Courthouse to greet happy couples. Nothing would make me more jubilant that to be bombarded with requests to preside over glorious ceremonies of love and life.
As we have seen in dozens of other states, the earth will not stop revolving on its axis; the “traditional” family will not crumble; and people will not want to start marrying their dogs. All that will happen is that thousands of loving couples will finally have the rights and privileges that heterosexual couples take for granted.
These rights are not some dreaded “gay agenda.” In fact, when people learn about the injustices faced by gay and lesbian couples, they often wonder what took so long to break down these irrational barriers.
- In a same-sex marriage if one partner dies, the other partner is not entitled to bereavement leave from work, to file wrongful death claims, to draw the Social Security of the deceased partner or to automatically inherit a shared home, assets or personal items in the absence of a will.
- Unlike heterosexual spouses, same-sex partners are usually not considered next of kin for the purposes of hospital visitation and emergency medical decisions.
- Same-sex partners cannot cover their families on their health plans without paying taxes on the coverage, nor are they eligible for Medicare and Medicaid coverage.
- Same-sex couples are denied the automatic right to joint parenting, joint adoption, joint foster care and visitation for non-biological parents. In addition, the children of gay and lesbian couples are denied the guarantee of child support and an automatic legal relationship to both parents, and are sometimes sent a wrongheaded but real negative message about their own status and family.
- Same-sex couples are excluded from special rules that permit married couples to buy and own property together under favorable terms, rules that protect married couples in their shared homes and rules regarding the distribution of the property in the event of death or divorce.
- Gay and lesbian couples cannot file joint tax returns and are excluded from tax benefits and claims specific to marriage. In addition, they are denied the right to transfer property to one another and pool the family’s resources without adverse tax consequences.
These are just a small sampling of thousands of federal, state and local barriers faced by same-sex couples. Any reasonable person can look at these and see that denying these people the same rights and privileges of heterosexual couples is not only wrong, it is immoral.
In time, these injustices will not only go away, but we will wonder why we ever enforced them at all.