Gay Marriage: Why It Matters

Mike Chessler

Many gay people consider not having to get married one of the biggest bonuses of being gay. You don't have to worry about joint checking accounts or whether or not to keep your last name, and you don't have to spring for a wedding. Then there's the fact that almost half of young people marrying for the first time end up divorced anyway. In spite of all of this, however, there is a growing movement to legalize gay marriage.

Marriage: It's Not Just for Breeders Anymore
"There are numerous special rights and special privileges that all heterosexual people get the instant they get married that no gay person can ever access," says Tim Miller, a Venice, CA-based performance artist. Miller's one-man show, "Glory Box," which recently toured the United States, examines the subject of gay marriage.

According to Miller, as long as gays can't get married, they are essentially second-class citizens. As the American partner of a non-citizen, Miller is especially concerned with the immigration rights that come with marriage. When a hetero American marries a non-citizen, that person automatically becomes a citizen as well. Gays and lesbians don't have that choice.

Miller, whose life partner of the last six years is on the verge of being deported, says "I won't let the U.S. government break up my family and home, as it's done to literally thousands and thousands of lesbian and gay couples." He plans to leave the country before ending his relationship.

Miller and his partner will probably have to move to Britain (his partner has both Australian and British passports, and both countries have a domestic partner laws that would allow Miller to live there) or Canada (which also has more liberal immigration policies.)

Separate and Unequal
"Marriage is the package in which society recognizes partnerships," says Jennifer Pizer, an attorney in the west coast office of Lambda, a non-profit legal advocacy group for Gay and Lesbian rights. According to Pizer, as long as gays and lesbians don't have access to the institution of marriage, they are being denied numerous rights and privileges. When Lambda did a search of all the laws on the federal government's books, it found 1,049 rights and privileges that come with a wedding ring (for a complete listing of these rights, go to www.marriageequality.com). In addition to immigration issues, some of the most important rights pertain to medical insurance, social security benefits, inheritance, taxes, hospital visitation, and child custody.

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