By Brandy Kunze
Across America same-sex couples are being unfairly treated when it comes to their rights. While some states allow same-sex couples to marry, even these couples aren’t offered the same incentives as heterosexual couples married in the same states. One example of a couple treated unfairly due to their sexual orientation is April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse of Michigan. These nurses and licensed foster moms have been together for 10 years. They have three children, two of which were considered special needs for a period of their childhood, and they are great, loving parents to all of their children. Sounds like a normal family, right? Wrong. Michigan law only acknowledges marriage between one male and one female. This couple performed a commitment ceremony in 2007 which some might consider to be the “alternative” to marriage but, that is not the case. Legally married citizens receive more benefits than we even think about and commitment ceremonies don’t offer these same luxuries. For instance, Michigan and many other similar states prohibit two people whom are not legally married to adopt children. That means that even though these two, DeBoer and Rowse, have jointly raised their children from infancy, only one can have legal rights to the child. This restriction started their case in the Michigan court and have now brought it all the way to the Supreme Court. This case is finally bringing to light all the discriminatory rights which are given to only heterosexual couples. “There are 1,138 benefits, rights and protections available to married couples in federal law alone,” and most of them same-sex couples aren’t eligible for. Gaymarriage.procon.org and amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/lgbt-rights/marriage-equality have both created lists of some of the rights unmarried couples lack. I have used these lists to create a list of the challenges same-sex couples face including:
- Prohibiting a partner from making decisions on a partner’s behalf when she or he is sick;
- Prohibiting a partner from visiting a partner’s child in hospital;
- Preventing couples from sharing equal rights and equal responsibility for children in their care;
- Preventing a partner and children from receiving employment-based benefits and being covered by health insurance;
- Preventing inheritance from a deceased partner going to a surviving partner if he or she dies without a valid will.
- Denying some people the option to marry is discriminatory and creates a second class of citizens.
- Denying the option of filing a joint tax return to reduce a tax burden
- Denying US residency and family unification for partners from another country
- Denying protections if the relationship ends, such as child custody, spousal or child support, and an equitable division of property
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the US Department of Labor also recognize married couples, but not domestic partners, for the purpose of granting tax, retirement and health insurance benefits.
- Denying marriage benefits will incur an additional $41,196 to $467,562 in expenses over same-sex couples lifetimes
These are just some of the rights which same-sex couples are excluded from. Now, you are probably thinking what about the states which allow same-sex marriage? While it is a start, federal law does not consider these marriages which means that their rights are very limited. Couple which have the same hopes for their relationships as similar heterosexual couples are denied their chance for equality. This isn’t a fight for gay marriage, but the chance for marriage equality! What can we do? SUPPORT EQUALITY FOR ALL! Think about it, have you ever seen an African American whom is C.E.O or even manager of a company? Are you a woman who has ever voted in an election? Better yet, have you seen an interracial couple walking down a street and not thought it was unacceptable? Times have changed and we have evolved as a country for the better. Each of these are rights which have previously been prohibited and now are rights we feel we deserve. So what about them? Straight or gay we must all give homosexual couples the chances and the freedoms for which they deserve. Love doesn’t require two genders, we all love and are loved. It is our turn to help them get those rights and create families and relationships like the ones we are able to create. Until Federal law states that marriage is a union between two people, same or opposite sex, there is no justice.