Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Part 5 -- Gay Marriage Series

  • Same-gendered Marriage would bestow "Special" Rights/Privileges On Gays.

Regardless of any of the reasons a couple might choose to marry, establishing close familial ties where none exist, otherwise, is the sole purpose for the legal existence and recognition of marriage in today's American society.

Note that you are not forbidden, by law, from marrying ANY relative, only from marrying those relatives who are already very closely related to you -- first cousins, your siblings, the siblings of your parents & grandparents and those relatives who are in direct lineage to you (children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, etc...) If you are unmarried and you die, today, these relatives, alone, are closely related enough to you to be counted among your surviving kin and heirs.

These people already enjoy the most important of the so-called "special privileges" that you bestow on and receive from a spouse of opposite gender, through marriage: the rights of next-kinship.

Let's say you're a man who's been in a tragic car accident, you're lying in a coma and, as it happens, you've been in a committed 20 year incestuous relationship with Mom or Sis. She's already very closely related and thus, already one of your next of kin. As a close relative, she can visit you in the hospital, speak with your doctor about your condition, petition the court to become your legal guardian, make decisions regarding your care, see to your final arrangements, attend your funeral and inherit your estate, as per your wishes. That you shared a home, as adults, in the years preceding your tragic accident, only strengthens her position as your closest surviving heir, should another close relative seek to usurp her. You didn't have to marry her to give her those protections.

If your incestuous relationship has been with a relative who's not as closely related as your mom or sister, but is still too closely related to marry, legally, you can protect these close relatives from closer relatives with a living will and a last will and testament. Any will, living or final, can be contested and overturned, but when you've named close relatives in these documents, you make it MUCH harder for other relatives, even those who are more closely related to you, to overturn than if you'd named unrelated or distantly related persons.

Now, let's say it wasn't Mom or Sis you were involved with, but a boyfriend of 20 years, with whom you've built and shared a life. Let's say, too, that Mom and Sis are homophobic gay-haters who disowned you the day you came out to them, haven't spoken to you since that day and have never even met your partner. For all intents and purposes, you've been dead to Mom and Sis for a couple of decades or more, already -- all that's left is to bury your body.

Even if you and your partner have living wills, legal last wills and testaments with every t carefully crossed and every i carefully dotted AND you have taken the extra precaution of forming a corporation or limited partnership to further protect one another's interests, your partner is still not related to you. That you shared a home, as a adults, in the years prior to your tragic accident makes you nothing more than roommates.

Your doctor cannot discuss your medical condition with him. Your Mom and Sis can not only step in and successfully bar him from your bedside in your final moments of life, they can petition the courts to become your legal guardians, gaining control of your medical care, access to your money (even if every penny of it is held jointly with your partner and your partner is the only one of the two of you who had an income during that 20 years!) and take over your share of control in your corporation or limited partnership.

They can prevent your partner from having any input, at all, on your final arrangements and bar him from attending your funeral to say his final good-byes.

Because you've named a person unrelated to you, Mom and Sis can easily contest and over-turn the terms of both your living will and your last will and testament. As your closest living heirs, they can force your partner to sell the home you've shared, to give them "their" half of the proceeds of its sale (again, this is true even if he's the only one of the two of you who had an income during your years together, and he, alone, paid for the home you shared and held jointly as a couple!)

Legally, they are your next of kin and your closest living heirs. The man you've built and shared a life with for the last 20 years is, legally, nobody to you.

Not only could Mom and Sis easily take half of everything you and your partner held jointly in addition to everything you held separately from your partner, if you did form that corporation or limited partnership, your partner could suddenly find himself incorporated or partnered, against his will and yours, with two people who inherited your interest in that "business" and who've never had any use for him or for you... and they could use that to wreak havoc on what he has left of the life you once shared.

This hypothetical example isn't a "COULD happen" scenario -- this is a "DOES happen" scenario.

Now, let's switch gears one last time and say that, prior to your tragic accident, the laws had changed and you had legally married the man you'd shared your life with for 20 years. Your husband would be your legal next of kin, just as a wife would have been. As such, your doctor can discuss your condition with him. He cannot be barred from your bedside and robbed of those last precious moments with you. He can petition the courts to be named your legal guardian. Your living will, if you have one and your last will and testament can still be contested and overturned, as any will can be, but because you've named a spouse, particularly a spouse with whom you've had a long term committed relationship, it's a LOT harder for another relative to overturn. Your husband can see to the final arrangements you had discussed with him in those somber, private moments when you discussed things neither of you wanted to think about. He can say his final good-byes at your funeral. You can pass in peace, knowing you've protected your spouse.

Protecting the ones we share and build our lives with isn't a "special privilege," it's a basic human right.

Gay Marriage -- Table of Contents

No comments: