My friend K asked me that the other night. Good question. Why aren’t we, I wonder? We, most of us, get up every morning and go to work, we take care of our families, walk our dogs and pay our bills. We try to quit smoking or lose a couple of pounds, call our moms on Mother’s Day, have a glass of wine for dinner, do our homework and make plans for vacation next summer. We’re pretty ordinary, most of us. We’re not savages hell-bent on destroying the foundations of the American Family. We just want the same rights as everyone else.
The issue that outrages me the most is the fact that we cannot collect our partner’s Social Security benefits. I know there may be no SSN benefits by the time I retire, and I know they won’t amount to much if there’s any money left. But it does chap my hide in the most severe way imaginable that if I die first, my partner won’t get my SSN benefits. Financially it may be a small thing, but in terms of civil rights I believe it is the grossest violation of all.
Here are some examples from right in our own small town that point to the total inequity of the situation:
My partner T works with an Eastern European woman who has been in the US for about 10 years. She married her first husband, at her own admission, to get her US citizenship – which she did. Then she divorced, remarried and is now working on getting citizenship for her current husband, who is also from Eastern Europe.
T’s boss is on his fourth marriage. His current wife is from Asia. She’s working on her US citizenship now.
One of her boss’s three ex-wives works for the same company. She is currently on her third marriage and her spouse is on his second.
In case you’re wondering if T works at a big corporation where examples like this would be easy to collect, there are only 15 employees in her small company. Between these three couples, there have been ten (10) marriages. Three out of the six individuals were not born in the US. All six are eligible to receive their spouse’s SSN benefits, but T and I are not.
I don’t question the right of any of these people to marry as many times as they’d like. I don’t judge their choice of spouse, or wish any of them would ‘go back to where they came from’ (truly, I love these people). And I most definitely do not want to deny them the right to collect their spouses SSN benefits. I am just outraged that the same rules do not apply to me and my partner. We are on our first ‘marriage.’ We were born and raised in the US, and have been together for almost 8 years. What about that makes us less deserving to take advantage of a benefit fund we’ve both been paying into for almost 30 years?
Why isn’t everyone outraged all of the time?
Prop 8 in California, and other ballot measures across the country designed to deny citizens their civil rights, must be defeated. Defeating these measures won’t grant us Federal marriage rights, but they are an important first step in the battle.
If you know of other, relevant ballot issues, send them to me and I will post.