Kicking A Lion

…hear us roar

Posts Tagged ‘constitution

The Difference between Marriage and Civil Unions

The Difference between Gay Marriage and Civil Unions

by Kathy Belge

You hear the politicians saying it all the time. “I support Civil Unions, but not gay marriage.” What exactly does this mean? Some even say they support equal rights for gays and lesbians, but not gay marriage. Is this possible? And why do gays and lesbians want marriage so badly when they can have civil unions?

First of all, What is Marriage? When people marry, they tend to do so for reasons of love and commitment. But marriage is also a legal status, which comes with rights and responsibilities. Marriage establishes a legal kinship between you and your spouse. It is a relationship that is recognized across cultures, countries and religions.

What is a Civil Union? Civil Unions exist in only a handful of places: Vermont, New Jersey and Connecticut. California and Oregon have domestic partnership laws that offer many of the same rights as civil unions.

Vermont civil unions were created in 2000 to provide legal protections to gays and lesbians in relationships in that state because gay marriage is not an option. The protections do not extend beyond the border of Vermont and no federal protections are included with a Civil Union. Civil Unions offer some of the same rights and responsibilites as marriage, but only on a state level.

What about Domestic partnership? Some states and municipalities have domestic partnership registries, but no domestic partnership law is the same. Some, like the recently passed California domestic partnership laws comes with many rights and responsibilities. Others, like the one in Washington offer very few benefits to the couple.

What are some of the differences between Civil Unions and Gay Marriage?

Recognition in other states: Even though each state has its own laws around marriage, if someone is married in one state and moves to another, their marriage is legally recognized. For example, Oregon marriage law applies to people 17 and over. In Washington state, the couple must be 18 to wed. However, Washington will recognize the marriage of two 17 year olds from Oregon who move there. This is not the case with Civil Unions. If someone has a Civil Union in Vermont, that union is not recognized in any other state. As a matter of fact, two states, Connecticut and Georgia, have ruled that they do not have to recognize civil unions performed in Vermont, because their states have no such legal category. As gay marriages become legal in other states, this status may change.

Dissolving a Civil Union v. Divorce:

Vermont has no residency requirement for Civil Unions. That means two people from any other state or country can come there and have a civil union ceremony. If the couple breaks up and wishes to dissolve the union, one of them must be a resident of Vermont for one year before the Civil Union can be dissolved in family court. Married couples can divorce in any state they reside, no matter where they were married.

Immigration:

A United States citizen who is married can sponsor his or her non-American spouse for immigration into this country. Those with Civil Unions have no such privilege.

Taxes:

Civil Unions are not recognized by the federal government, so couples would not be able to file joint-tax returns or be eligible for tax breaks or protections the government affords to married couples.

Benefits:

The General Accounting Office in 1997 released a list of 1,049 benefits and protections available to heterosexual married couples (*).  These benefits range from federal benefits, such as survivor benefits through Social Security, sick leave to care for ailing partner, tax breaks, veterans benefits and insurance breaks. They also include things like family discounts, obtaining family insurance through your employer, visiting your spouse in the hospital and making medical decisions if your partner is unable to. Civil Unions protect some of these rights, but not all of them.

But can’t a lawyer set all this up for gay and lesbian couples?

No. A lawyer can set up some things like durable power of attorney, wills and medical power of attorney. There are several problems with this, however.

1. It costs thousands of dollars in legal fees. A simple marriage license, which usually costs under $100 would cover all the same rights and benefits.

2. Any of these can be challenged in court. As a matter of fact, more wills are challenged than not. In the case of wills, legal spouses always have more legal power than any other family member.

3. Marriage laws are universal. If someone’s husband or wife is injured in an accident, all you need to do is show up and say you’re his or her spouse. You will not be questioned. If you show up at the hospital with your legal paperwork, the employees may not know what to do with you. If you simply say, “He’s my husband,” you will immediately be taken to your spouse’s side.

Defense of Marriage Law

Even with lesbian and gay marriages being performed and recognized in some states, the Federal Defense of Marriage Law prohibits the federal government from recognizing gay and lesbian relationships. This puts gay and lesbian couples who are married in a legal limbo. How do they file their tax returns? Do they have to pay the tax on their partner’s health insurance? How do they fill out legal and other forms, single or married?

Creating Civil Unions creates a separate and unequal status for some of America’s citizens. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that creating a separate class for gay and lesbian citizens is not permissible and that is why they have voted that only marriage equals marriage. The precedent was set with Brown v. The Board of Education regarding segregation in public education. Ironically, Massachusetts marriage law went into effect on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.

The United States Constitution guarantees equality for all. As you can see, marriage and civil unions are not the same. Creating equal access to marriage is the only fair way to ensure equality for gay and straight couples alike.

* Benefits & Protections unavailable to GLBT persons without marriage: 

Here are some of the legal rights that married couples have and gays and lesbians are denied:

  1. Joint parental rights of children
  2. Joint adoption
  3. Status as “next-of-kin” for hospital visits and medical decisions
  4. Right to make a decision about the disposal of loved ones remains
  5. Immigration and residency for partners from other countries
  6. Crime victims recovery benefits
  7. Domestic violence protection orders
  8. Judicial protections and immunity
  9. Automatic inheritance in the absence of a will
  10. Public safety officers death benefits
  11. Spousal veterans benefits
  12. Social Security
  13. Medicare
  14. Joint filing of tax returns
  15. Wrongful death benefits for surviving partner and children
  16. Bereavement or sick leave to care for partner or children
  17. Child support
  18. Joint Insurance Plans
  19. Tax credits including: Child tax credit, Hope and lifetime learning credits
  20. Deferred Compensation for pension and IRAs
  21. Estate and gift tax benefits
  22. Welfare and public assistance
  23. Joint housing for elderly
  24. Credit protection
  25. Medical care for survivors and dependents of certain veterans

These are just a few of the 1400 state and federal benefits that gays and lesbians are denied by not being able to marry. Most of these benefits cannot be privately arranged or contracted for within the legal system.

Advertisements

Written by kickingalion

November 22, 2008 at 4:36 pm

Constitutional Amendments

Do you know when the last Constitutional Amendment was ratified?

The 27th Amendment was ratified in 1992.  It dealt with the issue of congressional compensation.  The 26th Amendment was ratified in 1971 and it established 18 as the voting age.

Hasn’t American Society changed in 16 years?  How out-dated is our government?  See our Page on the US Constitution on your right.

Written by kickingalion

November 10, 2008 at 11:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

What is a Constitutional Democracy?

The United States of America is a constitutional democracy.

What does that mean? Basically, the government is designed to uphold the will of majority, but, at the same time, protect minorities. These constitutional protections of the powerless are an extremely important point in maintaining a balanced and fair nation.

What will follow is the exact wording of the amendments, then the explanation of the amendment.

Fourteenth Amendment: Citizenship Rights: Ratified July 9, 1868

1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

This amendment was created following the Civil War, with the anticipation that the recently freed slaves would meet intense racial discrimination, particularly in Southern states. Note: “Nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Fifteenth Amendment: Race No Bar To Vote: Ratified February 3, 1870.

1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

This amendment ensures recently freed slaves (as this was immediately following the Civil War) the right to vote and be treated equally in the process.
Nineteenth Amendment: Women’s Suffrage: Ratified August 18, 1920

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


This amendment gave women the right to vote, thus eliminating inequality due to gender.

Twenty-Fourth Amendment: Poll Tax Barred: Ratified January 23, 1964

1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.

2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

This amendment was designed to treat African Americans as equals by eliminating the poll tax, which could be a financial barrier to minorities.

Now, America, where are the protections of the last minority, the GLBT community?

Written by kickingalion

November 10, 2008 at 5:49 am