Why all the fuss about gay marriage? Why does the LGBT community want to be included in this right? After all, marriage as an institution hasn't faired so well in the last half of the 20th century. Jonathan Rauch, an openly gay man and author of Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights and Good for America, once said to a mostly straight audience during an interview, "You broke it, and you'll have to fix it. We can help, but you have to fix it."
You only have to look at the 33 percent divorce rate in this country to see that marriage is broken in the United States. So why are couples in the gay community fighting so hard for their right to marry? In the United States, the government provides a lot of support for marriage and that support translates into dollars, security and peace of mind. Being married comes with many social, economic and legal benefits.
The repeal of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) has huge legal, financial, civil, emotional and health-related consequences for same-sex couples. I suspect most opposite-sex couples don't realize the financial emotional and social value of these benefits. If the Supreme Court throws out DOMA, same-sex couples will have these same rights that opposite-sex couples have always taken for granted. As you read this list ask yourself: "What would my family's life be like if I didn't have these benefits that marriage in America grants to me?"
1. $500,000! NPR just ran this story of a lesbian military family. They remarked on how hard it's been for them to stay a couple and raise their kids without the federal recognition granted to opposite-sex married military couples. The couple estimated that $500,000 was what they spent out of pocket to make up for the lack of support from the military.
3. Nobody will stop me from visiting my husband in a hospital intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours in other parts of a medical facility.
4. I will be the first point of contact for making medical decisions for my spouse if he becomes incapacitated and can't communicate his own wishes.
5. My husband and I can file our taxes jointly.
6. I can receive income from the family business, even if the family member with the business is my husband.
7. I can inherit my husband's estate without paying any more taxes on it then an opposite-sex couple would.
8. I can have access to the same types of estate trusts that heterosexual couples already have access too.
9. I can be a legal adoptive stepparent or foster parent.
10. I can divorce and legally request my share of the joint assets, get child visitation, child support and joint custody of our children.
11. It will be just as easy for us to appoint each other conservator if we become disabled as it already is for straight couples.
12. I can receive public assistance benefits.
13. I can receive Social Security, Medicare and disability as his spouse.
14. As the husband of a career military man, I can receive spousal military benefits such as education, medical care or special loans.
15. Gay marriage gives me the right to care for my husband during an illness in accordance with FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act).
16. Without spending thousands of dollars on lawyers, I can receive wages, workers' compensation and retirement plan benefits for a deceased spouse.
17. I qualify for bereavement leave if one of my husband's close relatives dies.
18. I don't have worry that my husband's family will override my husband's and my wishes regarding after-death examinations or procedures for burial or cremation.
19. We can live in neighborhoods that are restricted to "families only."
20. If my husband dies or leaves me, I can automatically renew the lease in my name.
21. As a married couple we get family rates for health, homeowner's, auto and other insurances.
22. If my husband works at a college, then I'd qualify for tuition discounts and permission to use school facilities.
23. We will qualify for consumer discounts and incentives offered only to married couples or families.
24. I can sue a third person for wrongful death of my spouse and "loss of consortium" (loss of intimacy).
25. Gay marriage lets us claim marital communications privilege, meaning a court can't force us to disclose the contents of confidential communications during your marriage.
26. If I marry a man from another country, I can bring him here and he can become a citizen.
27. I can visit my husband in jail.
The United States does a lot to facilitate marriage and families. Shouldn't all families have that support?
What is your experience with the benefits of marriage? Were you aware of all of these benefits? Please share your experience below. I'll do my best to respond in a timely manner.
Larry Cappel is a trained relationship coach specializing in same-sex relationships and a licensed marriage and family therapist. He can be reached through his website if you'd like to talk about any aspect of your relationship.
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