Friday, August 3, 2012

When "Equal" Isn't.

Forget chicken sandwiches and other shiny things that distract us from what really matters. I'm not concerned with who lined up Wednesday to buy deep-fried "freedom of speech" or who is lining up today to "kiss away bigotry." In the bigger picture, none of these things matter beyond soundbites and dramatic on-site reporting for local news.

What matters to me as an American is equality. And folks, as long as gay men and women are not allowed to legally marry and have that marriage recognized by both state and federal law, we don't have equality.

My husband and I were married first in our church on July 4, 2003 and then again, legally, on July 4, 2008. In the eyes of California law, we are wed. Sounds equal, but it isn't. Because the United States Federal Government does not recognize our marriage, we are still viewed as single. And that matters.

For instance:
  • Jane and Bob are married.
  • Ric and John are married.
  • Jane and Ric work at Acme Company.
  • Acme Company provides 100% healthcare coverage for employees and their dependents.
  • As recognized spouses, Bob and John both are covered under their spouses' plans.
But, because Ric and John are single in the eyes of the Federal Government, the full value of John's healthcare coverage is considered additional income from Acme Company. Ric will pay income tax on the full value of that policy. (In our case, the policy is valued at nearly $1,000 per month.)

So Ric and Jane have the exact same job, same insurance, same coverage, and same marital status. But Ric pays tax on an additional annual income of $12,000. Jane doesn't.

"Equal" isn't.

There are many more examples I could offer, but I don't need to. I have already provided a single example of how denying same-sex couples the right to legally marry creates an inequality under the law.

So the next time you tell me, "you can have all the same rights with a domestic partnership or civil union," please know that you are wrong. Completely wrong. And no amount of "I  have gay friends, I do, but marriage is sacred" is going to change the fact that the current laws deny me the same rights that other Americans have.

And ultimately, sacred is a matter for religious institutions to determine. Equal is a matter for the Constitution to determine... and protect.