Sometimes, the gay marriage debate turns into a discussion about how we, as gay and lesbian people, want gay marriage to be legal so that we can call ourselves married just like everybody else. While it is true that it is hard to turn civil union into a verb and thus difficult to explain that we "got" a civil union, the debate itself is about way more than a word. This has become glaringly obvious to me over the past few weeks.
Carla and I are trying to get as many baby things figured out as possible so when the time does come when we are able to adopt a baby, we don't have to run around frantically and figure things out (I know, I know, we will still have to run around frantically and figure things out). But one of the things that we can figure out now, is whose insurance we will be putting the baby on.
When we were presented to a family whose newborn baby had several medical issues to deal with, we stopped to take a close look at both of our insurance plans. We realized that my insurance provides significantly better coverage and requires fewer copays. This led us to believe that it would be better to put the child on my insurance. The way that my insurance works is that you either pay for single or for family. Once you pay for family coverage, there is only one cost. Therefore, it costs the same to add a child to my coverage as it does to add a child and spouse to my coverage.
So I then set out to try and figure out what I would need to eventually do in order to add Carla and a child onto my insurance. First, I had to clarify for the benefits coordinator that Carla and I are not domestic partners, but considered to be have a civil union since we got married in Vermont. Because of the Civil Union Bill in Illinois, any couple who is married in another state that allows gay marriage, is considered to have civil union status here in Illinois. Those who have a civil union are to be treated, in terms of benefits, just as any other married couple would be treated. So once, I explained that, it was clear that I did not need anything other than our marriage license. I have no problem explaining this to people and take absolutely no offense when people are not sure of the difference. I figure that I am one of the few people in my school district who has ever needed to go through any of this and certainly since the civil union bill has passed here in Illinois. So, that was no big deal.
Once we clarified that all I would need to put Carla on my insurance was a copy of marriage certificate from Vermont, I realized that there was a bit more to the situation. Usually, benefits that are extended to a spouse are considered non-taxable income. However, since the federal government does not recognize Carla as my spouse, the money that is considered to be given to me to cover medical insurance for Carla is taxable income. That means, that I will have to pay an extra tax because I am covering someone who the United States government does not consider to be my spouse.
I have spent the past few weeks trying to figure out how much this tax will be and I am still left without a clear answer. I have to assume it is not all that much, but we want to know if it is more or less money than what Carla is currently paying for health insurance through her work. But that is proving to be more of a challenge than I anticipated.
None of these are issues that can't be overcome, but I can't help but be resentful that we have to deal with this at all. I think it is such a good example of just how important marriage equality is. It is easy to think that the argument for gay marriage is purely theoretical. That it is only the idea of being married that matters, but there is so much more to it. There are so many things that people don't think about that people are entitled to purely because they are married. Those are things that we have to run around and "figure out". Things that just happen for other people, don't happen when you don't have the right to a married status.
I truly hope that one day, none of this will be an issue. I hope that one day everyone will be able to get health insurance in the same way, for the same price. Until then, I think it's important to keep pointing out the things that are difficult for gay and lesbian couples just because we cannot get married and just because the marriages and unions that we do have are not recognized by the federal government. Until the Defense of Marriage Act ends, we will always be subjected to a different set of rules. And think that people need to be aware of that. I think that the more that people realize just what a difference it makes to have the right to get married, the more people will be more willing to demand marriage equality for everyone.