I had an interesting discussion yesterday with someone about proposition 8. I never was clear as to how she voted. I got the impression she didn’t vote on it one way or the other because she simply didn’t understand the issue well enough. I think she does now. Before we talked, she said “isn’t there something for gay couples like a marriage? Why do we have to call it marriage?”
My answer to her was a clear and unequivocal NO. The state of California has a legal arrangement called a domestic partnership, but it is not the same as a legal marriage for several reasons just based on my limited experience. Let me share:
- If you are married, most employers will extend benefits to a spouse. Not nearly as many employers extend benefits to domestic partners. I’m lucky – my partner/wife’s employer does have benefits that cover me, but that isn’t true of many domestic partners. Consider the dynamic in a domestic relationship when both partners must work simply to have health benefits.
- Marriage extends Social Security benefits to spouses that don’t extend to domestic partners.
- Just because a domestic partnership in California is supposed to have the same legal status as a marriage doesn’t mean that all government agencies know how to implement this. Case in point: my partner and I (before we married) recently called the tax assessor about adding my name to the title of her house and the tax ramifications of this. They didn’t know if domestic partners were treated like spouses (they are), and we were referred to the research division. I had to be on the phone for nearly an hour to get the right answer. The point is being married makes the answer easy; a domestic partnership is confusing, even to the government agencies who apply the laws.
- When we travel, we carry a packet of papers with us that contain health care directives and power of attorney in case something happens to one of us. I know this is a good idea for anyone, straight or gay, but it is really important when we travel to other states that don’t recognize our legal relationship.
- Last, and certainly not least, the feeling that I got when I took the vows of life commitment to her was not the same as signing a domestic partnership agreement. Standing in front of someone and declaring a life commitment puts perspective on the relationship and pulls on the heart like nothing else.
After our discussion, I think she got it. And I’m sure this just scratches the surface. I wish I had had the chance to talk to her before the election. Maybe I’ll get another chance.