The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Dual Losses for Gay Couples

If you thought the story in the previous post was upsetting, even scary, in terms of how vulnerable same-sex couples are in absence of the rights and protections of marriage, this one won’t make you feel much better. I came across this via Bill, and I’d have to say the same thing he said about it.

Having to face something like this is one of my greatest fears. It’s a story that reminds me a lot of Laurel Hester.

They live on a circle of tidy houses in a subdivision nestled in Windsor Locks, a couple in love since they met in a Hartford bar 30 years ago.

Another gray-haired, tax-paying family of two. You might like them as neighbors.

They own their home. There are retirement accounts for the future. They go to church. There were these plans, too, for hiking, kayaking and enjoying life for years to come.

This being the land of civil unions, Rob Scanlan and Jay Baker figured things were looking up for an aging gay couple in the suburbs.

Then, a little over a month ago, Rob was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – ALS – and they were reminded that there isn’t equality.

It’s different for gays, even in a blue state with a civil union law. The problem is not that ALS is a death sentence. It’s that Congress and the federal government recognize only marriage when it comes to taxes, Social Security and medical issues.

Because federal law does not recognize civil unions, Rob and Jay could be faced with liquidating everything – home, savings, retirement – to pay for costly care. Meanwhile, I’m told, a married heterosexual couple can sometimes take advantage of federal benefits so that a surviving spouse can at least protect the home.

Rob and Jay’s case is not entirely clear yet, but the inequity remains.

“You have a couple that has been together all this time. They have paid their taxes and they have contributed to the community,” said Gary Buseck, legal director for the Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders in Boston. “Why are they treated differently? There is no answer.”

I’m in only a slightly different situation than Rob and Jay, because we have a kid. I don’t have the right to my husband’s social security or retirement, should anything happen, and anything that he might leave to me is legally a “gift,” and therefore heavily taxed because, as I said before, we are legal strangers. As Parker was jointly adopted by both of us, and we’re both his legal parents, he would stand to inherit and as a parent or legal guardian I would probably have custodial responsibilities for his inheritance. But that’s about it.

And 30 years from now, when we’re as old as Rob and Jay, we’ll be pretty much in the same situation unless something changes between now and then. And while I think time is on our side, there are a lot of days and a lot that can happen between now and the day when we have true equality, and it will inevitably come to late for Rob and Jay. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, thinking that it might come too late for us too.

If I could ask President Bush and his supporters a question and expect an answer that had even a nodding acquaintance with logic, reason, or compassion I guess I’d want to know what’s moral about a story like this? What’s compassionate about it? What great threat would be unleashed by Rob and Jay being able to keep their home because they’d have the same rights and protections as any other married couple in that situation? What would be destroyed by giving families like theirs or families like mine the same rights and protections?

What greater good is served by ensuring that countless stories like this happen over and over again? What justice?

Why?

The answer I think I’d get, if they were honest, probably goes something like a line from Torch Song Trilogy.

QUEERS DON’T MATTER! QUEERS DON’T LOVE! AND THOSE THAT DO DESERVE WHAT THEY GET!

That’s the answer they’d give, if they were honest.

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