Monday, December 10, 2012

Will We Be Ruled Equal?

Well, the US Supreme Court be ruling on our rights again. I am deeply tired of worrying about my legal status in this country. I know that if I, or my partner of 14 years, should die unexpectedly we would be considered nothing more than strangers under the law. Huge taxes would be levied on the surviving partner, taxes from which married couples are exempt. Her family, from which she is estranged, could try to sweep in and grab up all her assets.

Not to formally become partners is our own decision but it is also the result of oppression. Opting for this "domestic partners" contract is a poor substitute for the protections marriage offers.It comes with a  sock-it-to-you bill tax preparers receive for making up two separate returns: one for the federal government and the other for the state. This unjust financial burden has not been one we have wanted to shoulder. My partner and I do not live together either so, although it's no problem for Bill and Hillary, domestic partners must share the same address.

It seems like a no-brainer to me, and to most LGBT folks, that, as citizens we are entitled to equal protection under the law. But what tune will the Supremes sing? They are also going to be issuing a decision on DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) which has prevented the partners of federal employees from recieving medical benefits of their legally married spouses in the states where same-gender marriage is legal. The range of decisions the court could arrive at are not necessarily all or nothing. They are everywhere along a continuum where the worst-case scenario is that marriage is not a fundamental right for gays and uphold DOMA or they could declare that marriage bans are unconstitutional, marriage is a federal civil right and should be universally applied. In between, and most likely, are a million shades of gray, worth reading about but better left to the lawyers to itemize.

But whatever happens next, I do believe that time is on our side. We are finally seeing a bit of the bend in that long arc of the moral universe. Transgenders and people of indeterminate gender identity already help speed the struggle for equal rights because as people transition from one gender to another, it becomes harder to determine the composition of couples desiring marriage anyway. Confusion is a good thing in this case and, ultimately, gender is none of anyone else's business unless they are planning to engage in physical intimacy. In that situation, hopefully, it can be privately discussed.