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The Cost of Marriage Inequality

January 20, 2010

The Chicago Tribune has an interesting piece out on the costs that gay couples face in ensuring that they have the same protections that marriage provides.  The piece, by Rex Huppke, strikes an interesting balance of the question of semantics (marriage vs. the same legal protections) with one gay couple opening and closing the articleending the article,

If Howard Wax and Robert Pooley Jr. were a heterosexual couple, they could’ve gone to their nearest Cook County clerk’s office, paid $40 for a marriage license and been wed.

That would have provided them an array of legal protections — the right to make medical decisions for one another, the ability for one to inherit the other’s property.

Instead, the couple paid $10,000 for an attorney to help them roughly simulate — using wills, trusts and powers of attorney — the protections that marriage affords. It was a price the men, parents of 3-year-old twins, were willing to pay for peace of mind, though they admit it’s far from perfect…

[cut to the closing paragraph]

…”I don’t care if they call it a tostada,” Pooley said. “I just want the legal issues to be settled out. I don’t like feeling like we’re missing out or being treated differently.”

While Huppke paints one gay couple as being fine with protections under any name, he also goes very clearly into why, with examples, marriage by any other name doesn’t provide the exact same legal protections as marriage.

…”Gay couples have to go to an attorney, have a will drawn up, get durable powers of attorney. Not only is it a financial expense, but many of those things can be challenged by people’s biological families,” said Rick Garcia, political director for the gay and lesbian rights group Equality Illinois. “A heterosexual couple that barely knows each other can walk into the county clerk’s office, get a license, get married by an administrative law judge, and all their rights and all their protections are there.”…

[cut]

Most estate attorneys advise straight couples to have safeguards like wills and powers of attorney, but they aren’t absolutely necessary.

“There are protections under the law that would help a heterosexual couple if they didn’t have those protections in place,” said Christopher Clark, senior staff attorney in the Midwest Regional Office of Lambda Legal, a national gay and lesbian civil rights organization. “A same-sex couple, without these steps, has no legal protection.”

[cut]

…”You can never create — using private contracts — all the same benefits and protections people have by being married,” said Ray Koenig III, a Chicago attorney. “You can try hard, and you can spend a lot of money. But you’ll never get there.”…

And finally, another key argument for those who oppose marriage equality to “protect children” nicely made by another couple featured in the article:

“Erin and I are spending thousands of dollars out of our savings account,” Melissa Walker said. “How does it benefit anyone when our child is going to come into this world with a less economically sound family?”

It’s definitely worth a quick read of the entire piece.

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