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Why Gay Marriage and Not Civil Unions?


Question: Why Gay Marriage and Not Civil Unions?
The right to marry is not just about the actual legal ceremony, but an equal right to the extensive list of legal protections awarded to married couples. These benefits given to legally married couples range from tax relief to medical decision making. Civil unions and domestic partnerships may seem like equal unions, but the protections they give to registered couples is often far less than that of marriage.
Answer: So, why do we need gay marriage and not just civil unions? Here are a few reasons:

Number of Legal Benefits:
  • Marriage: Over 1,049 federal and state level benefits (see list)
  • Civil Unions: Over 300 state level benefits. *No federal protection (see benefit example)
Tax Relief:
  • Marriage: Couples can file both federal and state tax returns jointly.
  • Civil Unions: Couples can only file jointly in the state of civil registration.
Medical Decisions:
  • Marriage: Partners can make emergency medical decisions.
  • Civil Unions: Partners can only make medical decisions in the registered state. Partners may not be able to make decisions out of state.
  • Marriage: Partners can transfer gifts to each other without tax penalty.
  • Civil Unions: Partners do not pay state taxes, but are required to report federal taxes.
Death Benefits:
  • Marriage: In the case of a partner's death, the spouse receives any earned Social Security or veteran benefits.
  • Civil Unions: Partners do not receive Social Security or any other government benefits in case of death. In the case of the death of former Congressman Gerry Studds, his partner of 15 years was denied the government pension that would have gone to a legally recognized spouse.
Child/Spousal Support:
  • Marriage: In case of divorce, individuals may have a legally-binding financial obligation to spouses and children.
  • Civil Unions: In the case of dissolution , no such spousal or child benefits are guaranteed or required out of state.
Immigration Rights:
  • Marriage: U.S. citizens and legal residents can sponsor their spouses and family members for immigration.
  • Civil Unions: U.S. citizens and legal residents cannot sponsor non-legal spouses or family members. (more on gay immigration rights)
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