Many committed same-sex couples — young and old, liberal and conservative — want the right to legally marry because they are in love. In fact, many have spent 10, 20 or 50 years together. They want to honor their relationship in the most significant way our society recognizes couples, and that’s through marriage. These loving couples want to make a public commitment to stand together in good times and bad, through all the joys, challenges and responsibilities that life brings. We should be encouraging committed couples — gay and straight — to marry and join in both sharing and shouldering the responsibilities for one another and their families.
Denying loving same-sex couples the option to marry makes them vulnerable, particularly in times of crisis and need. Among the protections denied these couples are the following:
- Social Security benefits. Married people receive Social Security payments upon the death of a spouse. Despite paying payroll taxes, LGBT partners receive no Social Security survivor benefits — resulting in the loss of thousands of dollars of financial support upon the death of a partner. For a surviving partner, this can mean the difference between staying in the family home or being forced to sell and move out.
- Health insurance. Many public and private employers provide medical coverage to the spouses of their employees, but most do not provide coverage to the life partners of LGBT employees. And LGBT 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. An LGBT widow or widower 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. LGBT employees are not entitled to family leave to care for their partners.
- Home protection. Laws protect married seniors from being forced to sell their homes to cover high nursing home bills. LGBT seniors have no such protection and are often faced with heartbreaking choices.
- Pensions. After the death of a worker, most pension plans pay survivor benefits only to a legal spouse of the participant. Same-sex partners are excluded from such pension benefits.
Imagine if you, a friend or a family member had to forgo all these protections that many may take for granted – simply to share one’s life with the person one loves.