Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Oppose discrimination

Kansans for Fairness is a group fighting against the anti-gay amendment on the ballot April 5. Not only would this amendment ban gay marriage (which is already against state law), it has this stupid language:
(b) No relationship, other than a marriage, shall be recognized by the state as entitling the parties to the rights or incidents of marriage.
That bans domestic partnerships, civil unions, or any contractual relationship between two people which grants the benefits of marriage. Is that any or all of the benefits? Presumably this doesn't interfere with inheriting property, though it probably changes how the estate fares in probate.

Atrios has discussed what some of the banned benefits are (originally from here). I've highlighted the ones which would, if recognized by the state outside of marriage, result in chaos:

Tax Benefits

Filing joint income tax returns with the IRS and state taxing authorities.
Creating a "family partnership" under federal tax laws, which allows you to divide business income among family members.

Estate Planning Benefits

Inheriting a share of your spouse's estate.
Receiving an exemption from both estate taxes and gift taxes for all property you give or leave to your spouse.
Creating life estate trusts that are restricted to married couples, including QTIP trusts, QDOT trusts, and marital deduction trusts.
Obtaining priority if a conservator needs to be appointed for your spouse -- that is, someone to make financial and/or medical decisions on your spouse’s behalf.

Government Benefits

Receiving Social Security, Medicare, and disability benefits for spouses.
Receiving veterans' and military benefits for spouses, such as those for education, medical care, or special loans.
Receiving public assistance benefits.

Employment Benefits
Obtaining insurance benefits through a spouse's employer.
Taking family leave to care for your spouse during an illness.
Receiving wages, workers' compensation, and retirement plan benefits for a deceased spouse.
Taking bereavement leave if your spouse or one of your spouse’s close relatives dies.

Medical Benefits
Visiting your spouse in a hospital intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours in other parts of a medical facility.
Making medical decisions for your spouse if he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to express wishes for treatment.

Death Benefits
Consenting to after-death examinations and procedures.
Making burial or other final arrangements.

Family Benefits
Filing for stepparent or joint adoption.
Applying for joint foster care rights.
Receiving equitable division of property if you divorce.
Receiving spousal or child support, child custody, and visitation if you divorce.

Housing Benefits
Living in neighborhoods zoned for "families only."
Automatically renewing leases signed by your spouse.

Consumer Benefits
Receiving family rates for health, homeowners', auto, and other types of insurance.
Receiving tuition discounts and permission to use school facilities.
Other consumer discounts and incentives offered only to married couples or families.

Other Legal Benefits and Protections
Suing a third person for wrongful death of your spouse and loss of consortium (loss of intimacy).
Suing a third person for offenses that interfere with the success of your marriage, such as alienation of affection and criminal conversation (these laws are available in only a few states).
Claiming the marital communications privilege, which means a court can’t force you to disclose the contents of confidential communications between you and your spouse during your marriage.
Receiving crime victims' recovery benefits if your spouse is the victim of a crime.
Obtaining domestic violence protection orders.
Obtaining immigration and residency benefits for noncitizen spouse.
Visiting rights in jails and other places where visitors are restricted to immediate family.
I highlighted the marital privilege because I can see how it could be abused. But honestly, shouldn't everyone get to pick one close friend, a person who they want to be able to visit in the hospital or prison, to live with, to make funeral arrangements for, to trust with medical decisions, and declare that that person cannot be compelled to testify against you? What criminal would that keep out of jail? Not even mob bosses would consent to letting a lieutenant make medical decisions in order to evade prosecution. The trade-off wouldn't be worth it.

If they just wanted to say that marriage was "one man, one woman" that would be bad, but in a way that would be so gratuitous I wouldn't care. It would just re-assert existing law. But this stinks.

A similar amendment in Ohio has made it harder to prosecute domestic violence between an unmarried, heterosexual couple. After all, domestic violence protection is an incident of marriage, and they weren't married.

This is bad policy and a bad amendment. It also happens to be bad politics. If they left it to the gubernatorial primaries or the general election, they could have used it as a cudgel against all sorts of moderates. But they rushed it through. Only you, gentle reader, can hold it back. See how you can help Kansans for Fairness and be sure to vote.