A Story of Equality

Gold Wedding RingsBy Keli’i Lum

John was a boy who grew up being the star football player of his town.  His town loved him for his enthusiasm and encouragement; his friends loved him for always being there to listen; and the old folks at his town’s local retirement home loved him for the positive energy he brought every weekend when he visited.  In college, John fell in love with his gorgeous classmate, Ashley.  Whenever he got sad, Ashley was there to comfort him, and whenever life threw a curveball at John, Ashley was there to support him.  After 5 years of being together, they decided to get married. However, many entities including their family did not support them.  They were forbidden from being married.  They fought for a few years, but after a long struggle, they came to a conclusion. They didn’t need a ‘marriage’ to define how much they loved each other, nor did they need the support of anyone else other than themselves.  They loved and supported one another, and that was enough.

As the years went by, they traveled the world together, went on endless adventures, and created enough priceless memories around the world to last them a lifetime.  When it came time to settle down, they bought a house in Hawaii and adopted two children.  John and Ashley felt blessed to live the lives that they did.  When Ashley got sick, John would stay home and take care of Ashley.  When John couldn’t make enough money to pay for the bills, Ashley would stay a few extra hours after work to earn enough money to pay for what John couldn’t.

One morning, Ashley began to vomit uncontrollably.  Thinking that it was just some food poisoning from the night before, Ashley stayed home and rested it off.  However, something that was supposed to only last for a maximum of three days, continued on for two weeks.  Ashley’s condition continued to get progressively worse.  Ashley’s vision started to get worse, and walking to the bathroom got more difficult as the days progressed.  Unable to grasp what was going on, they decided to visit the doctor together.  It was brain cancer, and Ashley only had a few days to live.  The very next day, Ashley fell into Acoma and was sent to the hospital.  With only a couple days left, John couldn’t think of anything other than being by Ashley’s side.  However, the hospital wouldn’t allow him that.  Although federal regulation gave patients the right to choose their own visitors, because Ashley was unconscious, she couldn’t make that decision.  So by default, only legal relatives were allowed to visit.  John fought physically to visit Ashley, but was kicked out of the hospital and arrested for trespassing.  In two days, Ashley died.  Unable to take bereavement leave to deal with the pain or make funeral arrangements for the one he loved, John killed himself a week after Ashley passed away.

Why wasn’t he allowed to visit Ashley during those last few days?  Why couldn’t he take bereavement leave?  It is because these are rights that are only given to those who are married to the patient or legal relatives of the patient.  John and Ashley were neither legal relatives nor married.  Ashley was another man, and same sex marriage was not legal. It still isn’t. Why not try the next thing, a civil union?  Although a civil union would give same sex couples state-level rights and responsibilities, these rights do not include the ability to visit a loved one in the hospital nor the right to bereavement leave. Amongst the 1,138 federal rights, protections and responsibilities only granted to those who are “married,” these two rights are just a few of them.

A civil marriage, a marriage ceremony that is performed by the state, will give same-sex couples the same state and federal rights, protections, and responsibilities as any other couple planning to get married.  In times of crisis, spouses will have hospital visitation rights and can make medical decisions in case their spouse is too ill or disabled to make the decision themselves.  Same-sex couples would also gain the right to be treated as an economic unit which allows them the right to file joint tax returns, obtain joint health, home and auto insurance policies.  According to the government census, there are over 580,000 same-sex households in the U.S.  Nearly one quarter of all same-gender couples have been reported to be raising children. These same-sex couples who choose to adopt children will be able to give their children legal protections such as child support upon the legalization of same-sex marriages.

Other states that have approved of same-sex marriage has shown proof that these marriages are good for the economy.  According to Adam Stevenson, a University of Michigan economist, legalizing same-sex marriage would bring in between $20 million and $40 million more per year in taxes, an estimate that is lower than government revenue projections.  Same-sex couples will no longer have to worry about the administrative hurdles they have to go through when filing their status as a ‘married couple.’  This would also alleviate payroll headaches for many businesses.

Same-sex couples live in 99.3% of all US counties.  This statistic paired with the ability to get married, hundreds of thousands of excited couples would start planning weddings, generating at least $1.5 billion in spending on flowers, decorations, bands, meals, photographers, hotels, suits and gowns, and tourism in general.  This does not include all the bachelor and bachelorette parties that will be initiated by these couples.  This will generate millions in sales tax revenues for state and local governments.  In the first year same-sex marriage was legalized in New York, New York City made $259 million in license fees and wedding-related expenses.   New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg even stated that “Marriage equality… has also helped to create jobs and support our economy.”

According to Fortune, more than 60 companies, including Apple, Nike, and Intel submitted a signed document supporting same-sex marriage to the Supreme Court.  Keeping same-sex marriage illegal made it difficult for companies to recruit and hire top applicants for their businesses.  Martin Chavez, a major executive for Goldman Sachs Group Inc., considered retiring from his position because of this issue.  After marrying his partner in New York, he had become overwhelmed with issues regarding his partner’s green card.  His “same-sex marriage” didn’t give him the right to immigrate or obtain a green card, a card that permits a person to live and work in the country.  Sadly enough, it also took away his eligibility for a student F-1 visa.  With same-sex legalization, same-sex couples would also gain the right to apply their foreign partners for a green card.

Same-sex couples only want the same rights, responsibilities, and protections that every other married couple receives upon marriage.  In legalizing same-sex marriage, we’ll benefit in both the economy and equality; more money will circulate into the terrible condition our economy is in; people like Martin Chavez will be able to bring their loved partners into the country; and couples like John and Ashley will be able to visit each other during their last hours of living in the hospital.

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