Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rights We Can't "Contract For"

Many anti-equality advocates claim that they oppose same-sex marriage, in part, because same-sex couples "can just contract for" the rights of marriage. So, you know, no bigs. Marriage bans don't actually prevent gay people from obtaining any rights of marriage and apparently, everyone has access to and can pay for an attorney.

Well.... not quite. Not in the reality-based world.

Many rights actually cannot be "contracted for." Obtaining a green card marriage, getting social security survivors' benefits, and suing for wrongful death of a spouse are a handful of such rights.

[TW: Accidental injury/death]

In August 2011, a stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair, killing a woman who was in a civil union that is legally recognized by the state of Illinois. Her partner was also injured in the collapse, and she survives.

Had they been a heterosexual couple, the surviving partner could have filed a wrongful death suit seeking damages for the death of her partner. Had the accident occurred in Illinois, where same-sex civil unions are granted the same state-level rights as marriages, the surviving partner could have filed a wrongful death suit seeking damages for the death of her partner.

But, Indiana doesn't recognize same-sex civil unions or marriages, even if those unions are legally recognized in another state. So, the surviving partner doesn't necessarily have the right to file a wrongful death suit in Indiana. She has to try to sue for that right since same-sex couples can have full state-level rights of marriage in one state, but when they cross the border, they can still be considered legal strangers to states that refuse to recognize same-sex unions. (I have discussed this scenario before, and articulated that, if possible, I will avoid such states in travel and vacation).

I wonder.... what do all of those nice, civil "marriage defenders," who we are repeatedly told exist, think about situations like these?

Well, we do know what one leading voice against marriage equality, Liberty Counsel's Matthew Staver (who was quoted as the "other side" to this issue) thinks:

"It is essentially something that is creating a relationship that is parallel to marriage for same-sex couples, and we don't believe that that is a good policy."

After taking a few minutes to seeth, fume, and rage at the utter lack of empathy, sympathy, and concern for the dignity of same-sex couples evidenced in this statement, I was led to a more peaceful question.

Given that same-sex couples aren't going away and given that we actually do exist in society, what does Mr. Staver suggest we do to better protect our relationships given that we can't, actually, "contract for" all the protections and rights of marriage? What is a specific compromise that will protect our rights while also not supposedly constituting "bad policy"?

I'm serious.

To all the "marriage defenders" out there who definitely-aren't-bigots-and-haters, here's your big chance to put up or shut up about how civil, respectful, and nice you are to LGBT people while denying us rights:

Given that people like you, amateur and professional "marriage defenders" and bloggers, are what stands in the way of a real-life woman's ability to have her relationship legally recognized and receive benefits she would be entitled if her partner had been a man, what's your solution to cases like this?

Or, maybe you don't see anything wrong with some couples getting "more equal" rights to sue than others.

Please elaborate.

[Note: Since this is a sincere challenge to anti-equality advocates, readers are welcome to direct anti-equality advocates here for them to outline their solutions.]

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