In most places a marriage license costs about $40 bucks, but it carries with it all sorts of legal protections like the right to make medical decisions for one another, the ability for one to inherit the other's property.
But for the LGBT community, for those same rights and privileges guaranteed by a couple of twenties, we spend upwards of of $10,000 for an attorney to help us simulate--using wills, trusts and powers of attorney--those same protections that marriage affords.
While we continue to debate and fight and vote on marriage equality, some proponents of the cause cite the added financial burden in casting it as not just a civil rights issue but an issue of economic fairness.
"Gay couples have to go to an attorney, have a will drawn up, get durable powers of attorney. Not only is it a financial expense, but many of those things can be challenged by people's biological families," said Rick Garcia, political director for Equality Illinois. "A heterosexual couple that barely knows each other can walk into the county clerk's office, get a license, get married by an administrative law judge, and all their rights and all their protections are there."
Most estate attorneys advise straight couples to have safeguards like wills and powers of attorney, but they aren't absolutely necessary. There are protections built into the law that help a heterosexual couple if they don't have those protections in place. A same-sex couple, without these extra added steps, has no legal protection and, even with carefully laid-out legal plans and documents, same-sex couples still have cause for concern.
We've all heard the horror stories of gay men and women not being allowed to even visit their partners in hospitals, not being allowed to be in on discussions regarding medical options and procedures, not being allowed to say goodbye if, goddess forbid, their partner dies in one of those hospitals.
And LGBT couples miss out on all manner of federal tax benefits, including, under the Defense of Marriage Act, the right of a surviving partner to receive any of their deceased partner's monthly Social Security payout. That money simply goes back to the federal government.
And no matter how we try, and how much we spend, we cannot create all the same legal benefits and protections that any straight couple can get for a $40 charge on a credit charge.
Sad, but true.