As I navigated the best decision around my date to leave work CK and I looked carefully into the question of health insurance. Ideally it would have been great to stay at work until May, I'd have had time to wrap up some projects neatly. If I left at the end of February I'd be part of a federal subsidy to pay %65 of my COBRA costs.
What stopped us was not only the expense of covering me under CK's work-sponsored health insurance plan, but the hard fact that if we opted to choose that plan the employer-paid part would be considered taxable income for her federal taxes. So many people seem to be unaware of this tax burden. When I tell them about this they are surprised and point out that I'm her partner.
Partner. Not spouse. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) makes it painfully clear that a domestic partner is not a spouse. Since I can't be a spouse I'm not entitled to a long list of spousal privileges that come with recognized marriage. Not being taxed for an employers portion of health insurance is on that list.
In Oregon we have the option of registering as domestic partners which affords us some privileges within our home state. Thanks to DOMA none of the privileges afforded to us in Oregon are required to be recognized by any other state. Thanks to Oregon's very own voters, including many in Multnomah county were we live, the State constitution was amended to declare marriage as being restricted to a single man and a single woman. Constitutionally making it clear that while we may be partners, we're not allowed to be married.
Many of my loving, wonderful friends remind me that it doesn't mean we can't get married. We can have the most beautiful ceremony possible. It will be filled with friends, family, delicious vegan food, and wonderful music. It can be just as good, no matter the legality of it.
Unfortunately I'm really very painfully stuck on the legality of it. I find myself struggling with the conflicting information that while this very body may well be the body of a Buddha and this land the Pure Lotus Land, a majority of the citizens of this world believe that I am not entitled to the same rights and privileges as anyone else. I'm welcome to what mostly unaffected heterosexuals have decided, at times very grudgingly, is "just as good" as civil marriage.
Why does "just as good" smack of the old "separate but equal" party-line?
Domestic partnership is not the same as civil marriage. It isn't. Yes, we can exchange vows in front of our friends and family. We can make a public commitment of our intention to practice and share together a wholehearted life. We can have a gorgeous reception filled with joy and dancing. It will be wonderful when it happens. I will most assuredly cry.
But at the end of the day we will not sign a marriage certificate. We will not have the same rights as the married, heterosexual couples who wish us well. It will not be fully equal.