January 23, 2010

Same-Sex Couples Pay a Steep Price for Marriage-Like Benefits/Protections

From the Chicago Tribune (hat-tip to Twitter account GayRightMedia):

If Howard Wax and Robert Pooley Jr. were a heterosexual couple, they could've gone to their nearest Cook County clerk's office, paid $40 for a marriage license and been wed.

That would have provided them an array of legal protections -- the right to make medical decisions for one another, the ability for one to inherit the other's property.

Instead, the couple paid $10,000 for an attorney to help them roughly simulate -- using wills, trusts and powers of attorney -- the protections that marriage affords. It was a price the men, parents of 3-year-old twins, were willing to pay for peace of mind, though they admit it's far from perfect.

"I feel at least like we're secure now," said Wax, who has been with Pooley for nine years. "It's not perfect, but we're OK."

Across the country, there has been a surge in gay and lesbian couples making such arrangements to protect themselves in states like Illinois that do not recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions. As the nation continues to fiercely debate gay marriage, some proponents cite the added financial burden in casting it as not just a civil rights issue but an issue of economic fairness.

"Gay couples have to go to an attorney, have a will drawn up, get durable powers of attorney. Not only is it a financial expense, but many of those things can be challenged by people's biological families," said Rick Garcia, political director for the gay and lesbian rights group Equality Illinois. "A heterosexual couple that barely knows each other can walk into the county clerk's office, get a license, get married by an administrative law judge, and all their rights and all their protections are there."

It can be a difficult reality for same-sex couples to face.
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