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The Fight for Gay Rights is Far From Over: Same-Sex Couples Still Denied Benefits

Holly Hicks,

The Fight for Gay Rights is Far From Over: Same-Sex Couples Still Denied Benefits

The Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law enacted in 1996 that proclaims marriage as between “one man and one woman,” prevents many same-sex couples from receiving the same benefits as married heterosexual couples.

Although we have seen progressive changes in the area of gay marriage rights such as the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the United States military, same-sex couples still face discrimination in the workforce and in their daily lives.

Thanks to section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex couples are not recognized in all states of America. Same-sex couples are denied basic privileges that those who can get married take advantage of: filing taxes jointly, insurance benefits for spouses and children, Social Security survivors’ benefits, estate benefits, immigration and federal employment benefits, and more – over one thousand laws are contingent upon marriage status. Currently, on a federal level, same-sex couples are not allowed these benefits.

Civil Unions Are Not the Same

Same-sex couples can get a civil union, but these are only recognized in the state which it is honored, not nationally. Also, people in civil unions do not get the same benefits as married couples. Even if the state allows gay couples to marry either as a marriage, domestic partnership, or civil union, they are still not recognized on a national level due to federal law.

Supporters of gay marriage fight for the repeal of this act since it is so unfair. Can you imagine not being able to see your wife or husband in the operating room or be able to qualify for Social Security benefits after dealing with his or her unfortunate death? Same-sex couples deal with this reality everyday and it is time to extend benefits to same-sex couples.

Gay Discrimination in the Workplace

Vandy Beth Glenn lost her job when her employer found out she was transgender. Her story is not alone: studies report a range of 15-43 percent of gay and transgendered people that have faced discrimination in their place of work. Up to 41 percent have experienced verbal or physical abuse on the job.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation, although technically protected under the Equal Employment Opportunity Act, is still a common problem faced by gay men and women. Gay men and women are harassed, abused, forced to quit or fired due to their sexual orientation.

States Allowing Gay Marriage

The ability for same-sex couples to get married is granted on a state-by-state basis. Most states have banned gay marriage or have specifically defined marriage as between a “man and a woman.” Some states allow unions similar to marriage, but they are still not the same as marriage and these are not recognized federally, only in that state. Most states ban gay marriage. These are the few exceptions as of February 2013. Hopefully more states can follow in their path.

  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia (D.C.)
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Vermont
  • Washington
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