When a loved one dies, the last thing the family wants to worry about is legal battles over the deceased’s property.
Even worse, though, is not knowing if you will be considered family during this time of loss.
Gay marriage has been a hot button topic for politicians, religious leaders and, in all honesty, most of America. In all the noise, some rights are forgotten. I did not realize them either, until the day they affected someone I loved.
I had known Terry and Stan my entire life.
They were like uncles to me, buying me books for Christmas and sending me cards on my birthday.
Terry was a computer programmer, and Stan was a reading specialist at an elementary school. They had been partners for more than 20 years when the unthinkable happened.
Stan suffered from a brain hemorrhage and died one day later. He went into a coma and never woke up.
Amidst the loss of his partner of 20 years, Terry had to worry about funeral costs and the division of Stan’s belongings and assets.
Stan died relatively young and had not put any kind of will in place.
Despite their many years together, Terry was not entitled to anything other than the house they lived in. He only got that because both of their names were on the mortgage.
Stan’s family was no help to Terry either.
They had been very disconnected from Stan for many years, but upon hearing of his death, they swooped in and fought for his possessions, claiming as much as they could.
While Terry did not need the financial benefit of these items, he was forced to give up several sentimental items because they were Stan’s and the family wanted them.
In addition, the hospital and funeral home made it very difficult to take care of funeral arrangements because he was not legally family.
He was not entitled to any kind of leave from work because he was not legally married to Stan.
Many people look at the system we have in place today and ask, “Why bother getting married? Is it just so they can file their taxes together?”
What happened to Terry is a heart-wrenching example of how the system can turn against a couple in a time of great tragedy.
Marriage laws would protect their rights, just as they do the rights of every other married couple in our country.
Evan Wolfsman of freedomtomarry.org shares a startling fact in his article “Protections Denied to Same Sex Couples and Their Kids.”
He tells readers, “according to a 2004 report from the U.S. General Accounting Office, there are more than 1,138 tangible benefits, protections, rights and responsibilities that marriage brings couples and their kids.”
Couples who cannot marry due to sexual orientation are denied all of these.
Marriageequality.org explains that the United States Supreme Court recently ruled in the case of United States vs. Windsor that same sex couples who have married cannot be denied these rights.
This does not help the couples who live in the 33 states that still ban gay marriage, however.
While there have been many advances in recent years that are making equality more of a reality, there is plenty that is being ignored and forgotten.