The essence of marriage is the love and commitment of two partners. Loving, committed same-sex couples need and deserve ALL the rights that come with being married.
Gay people who commit their lives to one another want to marry for the same reasons as non-gay people. In our society, marriage is many things: a loving, committed, lifelong partnership between two people; an adult rite of passage; a way for two people to honor their relationship; an opportunity for family and friends to bind together; a bundle of legal rights; a respected cultural institution.
In Maine, any qualified adult can become part of this cherished institution by marrying the person they love – except for same-sex couples. Maine denies same-sex couples the benefits and responsibilities of marriage and these couples who cannot marry are harmed in many ways. In Maine, only married couples:
- Are protected from certain legal and financial harms when one partner dies. Only a spouse can automatically inherit when no will exists, inherit without tax penalties, or take a homestead allowance;
- Are treated as an economic unit – can file taxes jointly, are required to financially support each other, or transfer property to each other without paying a tax;
- Are regarded as each other’s closest confidants and are protected from disclosing confidences during legal proceedings. By the same token, married public officials are required to disclose spouse’s conflicts of interest.
Marriage tells the community that two people are committed to each other and are a family. Same-sex couples need this as much as opposite-sex couples do.
Marriage is a lifelong partnership between two people – whether those two people are gay or straight. All loving, committed couples deserve the dignity and respect that marriage brings – as well as all the legal rights and obligations that marriage brings.
Maine is full of same-sex couples who have been together for decades, have weathered life-threatening illness, are raising children, worry about their finances, and do their best to plan for the future.
Children of same-sex couples are harmed when their parents do not receive all the protections of marriage.
- Same-sex couples with children are less likely to have access to family health insurance; those who have it pay more for it than their married co-workers.
- Children are less protected financially and legally when a parent dies. The surviving partner is not entitled to any Social Security benefits and has no right to make claims for wrongful death, loss of consortium or negligence against the former partner’s employer.
- It hurts children by telling them that their families are inferior compared to other families. Many committed couples tell stories about their children asking: “If you love each other, why aren’t you married?”
According to the 2000 census, same-sex couples live in every county in Maine. Further, 27% of the female couples and 19% of the male couples had a child under the age of 18 living at home with them. In contrast, about 22% of heterosexual married couples had children under the age of 18 living in their homes. Marriage is a major building block for strong families because it honors a couple’s commitment to assume responsibilities for one another and their children.
…and what about civil unions?
Civil Unions do not offer the same protections.
- Civil unions are not equal because of the special status that marriage holds in our society. Marriage confers a dignity and respect to a couple that a civil union does not.
- As the Connecticut Supreme Court said in its recent decision, “…the institution of marriage carries with it a status and a significance that the newly created classification of civil unions does not embody…” (Decision of CT Supreme Court in Kerrigan)
- In our democracy, we do not create separate institutions for different groups of citizens.
- States that pass civil unions instead of marriage just have to go back to the drawing board again: as in California, Connecticut, Vermont and New Jersey.
Want to know more on how to talk about marriage? click here: http://www.equalitymaine.org/talking-about-marriage