Saturday, April 17, 2010

State of the State Public Policy Conference

Today I had the pleasure of participating in the State of the State Public Policy Conference presented by Equality Texas.  I served as a panelist on Full Faith and Credit: Relationship Recognition moderated by Brian Thompson, an attorney and board member, Rep. Donna Howard, Bilerico Project blogger Paige Schilt, my client Angelique Naylor, and immigration attorney, Denise Mejia.  The discussions were focused mainly on the challenges that the LGBT community faces when trying to receive benefits that all heterosexual couples receive as a matter of "right".  

I am continually amazed by the sacrifices that same sex couples face when trying to receive basic healthcare, rights to make decisions regarding their children or the spouse/partner, and how they should identify themselves when asked about their marital status.  For example, a same sex couple married in Massachusetts is married but should you or do you identify yourself as married when filing taxes, applying for loans, completing an application for adoption.  What do your advisors counsel you to do?  If you choose single, well you're not according to Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa...  If you choose married, you might also want to write "in Massachusetts, Connecticut ...."  Why does this become important?  Whichever one you choose could affect you later or be offered as proof against you.  If you report that you're single when you apply for a mortgage a home but you got married in Massachusetts, the title company will want to know that tidbit.  Why?  Because your spouse could possibly have an interest in the property.  At some point your relationship will end either by death or dissolution and it is at that point that the question of interest arises. 

These issues and more will continue to plague same-sex couples as well as opposite-sex couples in unions that are not recognized by the State of Texas.  Please do what you can to communicate with your legislators about the need for better policy, more effective laws, and out of the box (closet) thinking.