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Same-sex couples seek equal rights, protection

June 11, 2011
Marshall Independent

To the editor:

The Marshall Independent has had several articles and letters regarding marriage equality. In the comments where people can express their feelings and thoughts a few questions have been brought up. This is an attempt to clear up some of those questions.

Many same-sex couples want the right to legally marry because they are in love - either they just met the love of their lives - or more likely, they 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 protection 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 heterosexual 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, 528.00 upon the death of a partner.

Immigration. Americans in binational 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 spouse of their employees, but most employers do not provide coverage to the life partners of gay and lesbian employers. Gay 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.

Retirement savings. While a married person can roll a deceased spouse's 401(k) funds into an IRA without paying taxes, a gay or lesbian American who inherits a 401 (k) can end up paying 70 percent of it in taxes and penalties.

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.

Because they are not legal spouses, elderly gay and lesbian couples do not have the right to spend their last days living together in nursing homes.

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.

The above information was taken from a Publication of HRC'S FamilyNet Project.

Cathy Hare & Jan Knieff




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