Why Marriage Matters

Can you feel the excitement? The momentum for marriage equality is stronger than ever thanks to recent wins in Ireland and Mexico. The United States Supreme Court should deliver its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges (and the related cases) sometime before the end of the month. When that happens, fingers crossed, we will enter a new era of complete marriage equality.

Since I started this blog, I’ve highlighted the personal and financial benefits of equal marriage rights. And at this critical juncture, it’s important to reiterate why marriage matters.

You Love Who You Love

I’ve never considered myself the stalker type. But when I first saw Ben walking across DePauw’s academic quad, I wanted to be everywhere he was. So I managed to run into him in the cafeteria, say hello when his classes let out, and study in the library whenever he was working.

At the time, I wasn’t thinking about marriage, owning a home, or spending the rest of our lives together. I just had a giant crush. Ben didn’t even realize I was making advances. The relationship bloomed, though, when I finally got his attention.

We learned how to sustain a relationship while I was in law school in Boston and he taught in New Jersey.  We figured out how to deal with our combined $250,000 in student loans when we started living together.  And we navigated the twists and turns of meshing two different money personalities into one household.

Separate is Not Equal

We also had the added pressure of being a same-sex couple. We jumped through several hoops to make sure I could get on Ben’s insurance.  We had to explain to medical professionals that we were “together” together, when a situation arose when we might have to make a decision for one another.  We also watched friends and family celebrate their love through a marriage ceremony and have their relationship legally recognized, when we couldn’t.

Luckily, an act of defiance by one couple in 1972 spawned a movement that has allowed some of us to already get married and may ultimately result in all same-sex couples in the U.S. having the legal right. On August, 9th 2014, Ben and I vowed to be at each other’s side as long as we shall live and had our union recognized by the federal government and the state of Illinois.

Even if the The Supreme Court grants all same-sex couples the right to marry, it will not end the struggle for recognition and equality. We will still have to deal with homophobia and the fact that, while legal, some people still won’t consider our marriages valid. Furthermore, it’s the beginning of a whole new set of challenges for those couples who may have not ever envisioned getting married.

Substantial Legal and Financial Benefits

Same-sex couples would have access to 1,138 benefits that affect every aspect of our personal finances. For instance, we have to decide whether we benefit more from filing jointly or separately. We would need to figure out whether a prenuptial agreement is needed before we get married. And we have to strategically plan when to take social security. All of these issues highlight the practical reality of what’s next if we choose to marry. 

Ben and I have already experienced how much easier it’s been to get and pay for health benefits, plan for retirement together, and being able to communicate our commitment to others by using the term “husband” all from having our relationship legally recognized.

Marriage matters because same-sex couples deserve the rights, recognition, and respect already given to our heterosexual brethren. This issue affects real lives in a substantial way, and many have sacrificed so much to get us to this point. Hopefully the time is at hand where our love can be recognized legally.