Because same-sex couples are denied the right to marry, same-sex couples and their families are denied access to the more than 1,138 federal rights, protections and responsibilities automatically granted to married heterosexual couples. Among those are:
The right to make decisions on a partner's behalf in a medical emergency. Specifically, the states generally provide that spouses automatically assume this right in an emergency. If an individual is unmarried, the legal "next of kin" automatically assumes this right. This means, for example, that a gay man with a life partner of many years may be forced to accept the financial and medical decisions of a sibling or parent with whom he may have a distant or even hostile relationship.
The right to take up to 12 weeks of leave from work to care for a seriously ill partner or parent of a partner. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 permits individuals to take such leave to care for ill spouses, children and parents but not a partner or a partner's parents.
The right to petition for same-sex partners to immigrate.
The right to assume parenting rights and responsibilities when children are brought into a family through birth, adoption, surrogacy or other means. For example, in most states, there is no law providing a noncustodial, nonbiological or nonadoptive parent's right to visit a child - or responsibility to provide financial support for that child - in the event of a breakup.
The right to share equitably all jointly held property and debt in the event of a breakup, since there are no laws that cover the dissolution of domestic partnerships.
Family-related Social security benefits, income and estate tax benefits, disability benefits, family-related military and veterans benefits and other important benefits.
The right to inherit property from a partner in the absence of a will.
The right to purchase continued health coverage for a domestic partner after the loss of a job.
Such inequities impose added costs on these families, such as increased health insurance premiums, higher tax burdens and the absence of pension benefits or Social Security benefits in the event of a partner's death.
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