Due to the recent passage of Proposition 8, the class (and nation) has had a lot of discussion of the issue of Gay Marriage. We haven’t really focused on what rights Gay Couples are not permitted to have. This is a quite brief rundown on why Civil Unions are lacking as an answer to one of the Civil Rights issues in our time.
Civil Unions do not (and are unable to) confer federal rights.
With regard to taxes, couples in a civil union can file a joint tax return, but they can’t do so for federal taxes. It is oftentimes advantageous for couples to be able to file jointly; gifts to a partner or other transfer of assets can be taxed in a civil union.
When one’s partner dies, it is procedural for the survivor’s social security benefits to increase to a level commensurate with the couple’s earnings, rather than just the survivor’s earnings. From a personal standpoint, I have seen the positive impact of such a program: my Grandmother has been on survivor’s benefits (as well as SSI) for years. Those couples in a civil union can’t collect survivor’s benefits.
Health insurance issues are another example of missing rights. (Deep breath) Ok, here we go. This one’s a bit of a doozy, as this is the most complex of the issues surrounding the inadequacy of civil unions. Here are a couple of concerns regarding civil unions and health insurance:
Employers can choose whether or not they would like to provide health insurance benefits to spouses in a civil union if their private health plans are not subject to state law.
Even if subject to state law, most states do not compel employers to cover spouses in civil unions.
Additionally, in places like Vermont, children born to couples in a civil union are presumed to be the child of both members in the civil union. This presumption is not present in other states; the couple would likely have to go through the adoption process. This seems complex, but let me give an example:
Kristin (a woman) has a child while in a civil union with another woman, Jamie.
They decide together to name their baby girl Madison.
If the couple separates, and Kristin moves to Pennsylvania with Madison, then Jamie will not be presumed as a parent to the child.
This means that although the child was born while the parents were in a civil union, Kristin would have the ability to deny Jamie the right to visit, even if Jamie was willing to move to Pennsylvania to remain close to little Madison.
I believe that we all want to find love someday. If I find that, my friends, family, and society should be happy, regardless of who it is.