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Yesterday I posted a story about a federal district judge ruling in favor of a lesbian couple who had requested that the state of Indiana immediately recognize their marriage. They are a part of a larger marriage equality lawsuit in that state. However, one of the ladies is terminally ill. The judge granted their request by issuing a temporary restraining order which lasts for 28 days. That was posted here.

Slate has posted an article about that couple and other couples in similar situations in marriage equality cases. The article tells us why these cases are important and what these favorable decisions mean to the couples. The article strikes the correct (and sensitive) tone and is well written (IMO). Therefore, I will reproduce some of it here for your perusal.

From that article/blog:

It’s a sad fact that many of the biggest gay marriages victories have arisen out of lawsuits involving the demise, or impending demise, of one partner. Death famously sits at the root of United States v. Windsor, and Ohio’s gay marriage ban was first dented by a dying man who married his longtime partner in Maryland and sued to stay married on his Ohio death certificate. Morbid as it may seem, this is partly strategic: The fight for equal justice never seems more pressing or poignant than when it’s designed to bring rights to someone whose time left on Earth is quickly dwindling. Judges—and most Americans—have a harder time denying gay people rights when doing so deprives a mother of two from the joys of marriage in her last days of life.

But the dominance of death in gay marriage lawsuits is also rather inevitable. Gay marriage isn’t just about symbolism or abstract equality: It’s a pragmatic attempt to relieve the constant burdens gay couples experience when the state treats them like legal strangers. And as Edith Windsor can tell you, arguably the most significant of these burdens involve death. In their lawsuit, Sandler and Quasney noted that, without a judicial order, Quasney will die officially “unmarried,” and Sandler will be unable to access some of the basic benefits of surviving spouses. She may be unable to control her partner’s estate or assert custody over her own children. In short, she’d be left in a legal limbo, thoroughly disadvantaged by the law and forced—with the help of a costly attorney, no doubt—to sue for the fundamental benefits that would otherwise automatically be hers.

Spousal benefits, of course, are not all that’s at stake in the gay marriage debate. For Quasney, dying with the knowledge that Indiana recognized her marriage to the woman she loves is probably more important than every practical factor combined. That’s the true gift Judge Young has provided Sandler and Quasney: The dignity of equality, coupled with the satisfaction of overcoming injustice. It’s unfortunate that Quasney had to spend so much of her life fighting for the right to have her relationship recognized by the state. But at least in her final moments, she can look to the woman she loves and call her, with no qualifications, her wife.

These issues are very serious and very important. It's not just us 'homofascists' making life miserable for the religious right (although, sometimes I think that might be reason enough).

Originally posted to librarisingnsf on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 11:11 AM PDT.

Also republished by Kossacks for Marriage Equality.

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Comment Preferences

  •  There was a front page story last year in the (16+ / 0-)

    Portland Press-Herald (Maine) about a similar couple here. One of the men was dying and the couple hoped they could hold on until the newly passed marriage equality bill took effect. I don't believe he made it.

    There are, indeed, countless stories like this around the country. Hell, I married my husband essentially on his deathbed, as many of you may remember.

    Marriage equality is not just some nice idea for happy, shiny young gay people. It is important for so many reasons, and this story in Indiana illustrates that beautifully. I'm glad the judge did the right thing.

    Thanks for writing this up.

    Pope Francis: the Thumb of Christ in the eyes of the Pharisees.

    by commonmass on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 11:27:21 AM PDT

  •  Compassion (8+ / 0-)

    I think you've put your finger on the difference between the two sides of this issues, Rick. I all comes down to compassion. Understanding what the 14th Amendment says about equal protection of the laws is the legal definition of that type of compassion.

    Thanks for the diary.

    Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall

    by Dave in Northridge on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 11:43:36 AM PDT

  •  My uncle, who had been with his partner... (11+ / 0-)

    ...for over 35 years, died several months before marriage equality was attained in Illinois.

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Fri Apr 11, 2014 at 11:49:49 AM PDT

  •  Nobody should be surprised that illness and death (10+ / 0-)

    are pertinent concerns where marriage is an issue.

    It can come up in some ironic ways as well as my own history will attest.

    My late partner Mario and I became San Francisco registered domestic partners on the first day it was possible to do so. At the time we know that I was HIV-positive while he, because of the definition of AIDS at the time, already had an AIDS diagnosis even though he still seemed to be healthy. About a year later he suffered his first opportunistic infection; he passed away a few months later. During his first week in the hospital he was visited by a social worker who helped him draft a will and a medical power of attorney, all in my name. It's always a good idea to have these things in place (and I say this with the full acknowledgement that I've been lagging in this department and need to get off my ass to do something about it).

    Mario's family deferred to my status as his survivor and as executor of his estate--not that he had much of an estate to argue over; we were not wealthy and Mario's personal assets were minimal. Still, certain things were helped by us being somewhat "legal" while at the same time his will facilitated other things that would have been simpler had we been legally married. There were at the same time some outstanding financial obligations he had when he died. Had we been legally married, I'd have been obligated to cover those obligations and would willingly albeit tearfully have done so. Instead, some of his creditors were just plain out of luck.

    Those who insist on opposing marriage equality labor under the delusion that it's all about rights and benefits, which for some reason they insist we should be denied (I don't know about anyone else but I find it difficult any more to chalk this up to anything but sheer malice); they conveniently forget about the obligations that come with legal marriage.

    •  My uncle and his partner did much the same. (7+ / 0-)

      They were together for 49 years, and fairly early on they did as much paperwork as it was possible to do, reviewing and augmenting on a regular basis.

      As in your case, his family (my mother's side) and his partner's family respected their relationship, so there were no quibbles on that front when his partner died of heart failure.  Their partnership marriage lasted almost as long as my grandparents' marriage and longer than any of his siblings' marriages.

      It would have been a heckuva lot simpler if they could have simply gotten legally married, and it was their situation that opened my eyes to the inequities of marriage inequality.

  •  "rights and benefits" often means real money (7+ / 0-)

    In other words, there is a real financial cost to being discriminated against. For Edie Winsor I believe it was thousands of dollars of federal estate taxes.

    I did wills for a gay couple years ago, when one of them was dying, before there was marriage or even domestic partnership. In NH, there was (perhaps still is?) an 18% inheritance tax on any assets that pass to a non-family member -- including joint bank accounts and jointly held real estate. These men had everything in joint names, so there was no need for probate. But the State demanded its 18%. If their marriage had been recognized, it would have passed tax-free.

    I did manage to convince the tax guy that since they had earned equal amounts all the time (25 years or so) they'd been together, the survivor already owned half of their assets and should only get taxed on the other half, and we agreed on what documents I would send in to verify that.

    Then he said to me, "Pardon me for asking, it's none of my business, but why was all the deceased's property held jointly with this unrelated person?"

    "He's the surviving spouse," I said. "I'm not asking you to treat him as the surviving spouse -- he does not want to be a public test case -- but that's who he is in everything but name."

    "Oh," the tax guy said. "That makes sense then."

    But he couldn't do anything about the tax. My client was not well-off, and that money would have been useful to him.

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