Thursday, October 29, 2009

Same-Sex Marriage in USA

Government recognition of same-sex marriage is presently available in seven countries and five U.S. states. Currently, however, gay married couples fork over $467,000 more than straight married couples in the US.

Upwards of $467,000, when you account for the 1138 federal rights and benefits afforded to heterosexual couples that are denied to same-gender couples. That's how much the Times estimates a gay couple will pay -- in a worst case scenario -- over the span of their lifetimes for extra costs related to health care, legal affairs, and other issues.
The Respect for Marriage Act introduced in September by Rep. Jerrold Nagler (D-NY) and has 91 co-sponsors would fully repeal DOMA.
Although similar to marriage, a domestic partnership does not confer any of the 1,138 rights afforded to married couples by the federal government.

The following is a review of a 1997 and 2004 government report that outlined the specific benefits afforded married couples in the United States. These are benefits and rights denied gay and lesbian couples taken from the website Equality Matters:
Right to many of ex- or late spouse's benefits, including:

-- Social Security pension
-- veteran's pensions, indemnity compensation for service-connected deaths, medical care, and nursing home care, right to burial in veterans' cemeteries, educational assistance, and housing
-- survivor benefits for federal employees
-- survivor benefits for spouses of longshoremen, harbor workers, railroad workers
-- additional benefits to spouses of coal miners who die of black lung disease
-- $100,000 to spouse of any public safety officer killed in the line of duty
-- continuation of employer-sponsored health benefits
-- renewal and termination rights to spouse's copyrights on death of spouse
-- continued water rights of spouse in some circumstances
-- payment of wages and workers compensation benefits after worker death
-- making, revoking, and objecting to post-mortem anatomical gifts

Right to benefits while married:

-- employment assistance and transitional services for spouses of members being separated from military service; continued commissary privileges
-- per diem payment to spouse for federal civil service employees when relocating
-- Indian Health Service care for spouses of Native Americans (in some circumstances)
-- sponsor husband/wife for immigration benefits

Larger benefits under some programs if married, including:

-- veteran's disability
-- Supplemental Security Income
-- disability payments for federal employees
-- medicaid
-- property tax exemption for homes of totally disabled veterans
-- income tax deductions, credits, rates exemption, and estimates

Joint and family-related rights:

-- joint filing of bankruptcy permitted
-- joint parenting rights, such as access to children's school records
-- family visitation rights for the spouse and non-biological children, such as to visit a spouse in a hospital or prison
-- next-of-kin status for emergency medical decisions or filing wrongful death claims
-- custodial rights to children, shared property, child support, and alimony after divorce
-- domestic violence intervention
-- access to "family only" services, such as reduced rate memberships to clubs & organizations or residency in certain neighborhoods
-- Preferential hiring for spouses of veterans in government jobs
-- Tax-free transfer of property between spouses (including on death) and exemption from "due-on-sale" clauses.
-- Special consideration to spouses of citizens and resident aliens
-- Spouse's flower sales count towards meeting the eligibility for Fresh Cut Flowers and Fresh Cut Greens Promotion and Information Act
-- Threats against spouses of various federal employees is a federal crime
-- Right to continue living on land purchased from spouse by National Park Service when easement granted to spouse
-- Court notice of probate proceedings
-- Domestic violence protection orders
-- Existing homestead lease continuation of rights
-- Regulation of condominium sales to owner-occupants exemption
-- Funeral and bereavement leave
-- Joint adoption and foster care
-- Joint tax filing
-- Insurance licenses, coverage, eligibility, and benefits organization of mutual benefits society
-- Legal status with stepchildren
-- Making spousal medical decisions
-- Spousal non-resident tuition deferential waiver
-- Permission to make funeral arrangements for a deceased spouse, including burial or cremation
-- Right of survivorship of custodial trust
-- Right to change surname upon marriage
-- Right to enter into prenuptial agreement
-- Right to inheritance of property
-- Spousal privilege in court cases (the marital confidences privilege and the spousal testimonial privilege)

Spousal income and assets are counted in determining need in many forms of government assistance, including:

-- veteran's medical and home care benefits
-- housing assistance
-- happy birthday housing loans for veterans
-- child's education loans
-- educational loan repayment schedule
-- agricultural price supports and loans
-- eligibility for federal matching campaign funds
-- Ineligible for National Affordable Housing program if spouse ever purchased a home:
-- Subject to conflict-of-interest rules for many government and government-related jobs
-- Ineligible to receive various survivor benefits upon remarriage

There are some laws that either benefit or penalize married couples over single people, depending upon their own circumstances:

-- Marriage penalty/bonus
-- Someone working for their spouse cannot be defined as an "employee"
-- Someone cannot change beneficiaries in a retirement plan or from waiving the joint and survivor annuity form of retirement benefit, without the written consent of his or her spouse
-- Wages can be garnished at a maximum of 60% (instead of the normal 25% limit) if the garnishing is for alimony or child support
The Netherlands was the first country to authorize same-sex marriage in 2001, and now Belgium, Canada, South Africa, Spain, Norway, Sweden, and in the US: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

New York, Rhode Island, District of Columbia (DC) and New Mexico do not allow same-sex marriages to be performed, but do recognize such marriages performed elsewhere.

In the US, domestic partnership is a city, county, state, or employer-recognized status that may be available to same-sex and, sometimes, opposite-sex couples. Domestic partnerships in the United States are determined by each state or local jurisdiction, so there is no nationwide consistency on the rights, responsibilities, and benefits accorded domestic partners.

Related Headlines:

Outcome Over Gay Marriage in Maine is a Toss-up.

Gay marriage question focus of Maine TV debate

Focus of Gay-Marriage Fight Is Maine

A marriage equality bill that respects religious objectors

In Battle Over Gay Marriage, Timing May Be Key
NY Sen. Schumer-Gay Marriage in All 50 States is Goal


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