The Innocent Grown-Ups Abandoned by Obergefell

The Innocent Grown-Ups Abandoned by Obergefell July 14, 2015

Shortly after the Supreme Court decision imposing same-sex marriage laws, I read this reaction from Lindsey at A Queer Calling:

If you were to ask me to name my top fear, I would tell you that I am most afraid of Sarah losing health care access. Currently, Sarah’s health care access rests entirely on my employer extending coverage to domestic partners. We first opened the conversation about protecting ourselves legally over 20 months ago. We’ve been encouraged to grant one another durable power of attorney and write our wills naming each other as beneficiaries. It’s hard to believe that a document one can create using free internet templates would be the answer to our legal worries. If it were truly that easy for the two of us to protect ourselves legally, please tell me why I have never seen a conservative Christian discussing how granting durable power of attorney and keeping one’s will up to date provides adequate legal redress. Additionally, I cannot escape the observation that accessing health insurance in the United States seems to be contingent on where you work and to whom you are married even after the passage of the Affordable Care Act. We are terrified that Friday’s decision will mark the eventual end of domestic partner benefits, a fear that appears to have merit

Way back years ago when people began agitating for legal marital status for same-sex couples, the rallying cry was the cruelty of keeping two people who love each other from being able to legally care for one another: Denial of hospital visiting privileges, complicated requirements for making wills, and so forth.

Then, as now, no one was talking about those people who aren’t asking to be married, but still need a way to care for one another without involving a lawyer at every turn.  After all, it doesn’t matter whether that other person in your life is your old college roommate, your brother’s widow, your stepsister, your friend from church, your bowling partner . . . people live with other people.  Not every close, loving relationship is a marriage.  Not every person is cared for by “family” that matches the usual legal kinship ties.

Legal documents are complicated and intimidating.  There remains a serious need for real legal reform. It’s appalling that you can’t just logon to your state website or drop in at the county clerk of court’s office and fill out some simple-to-complete legal documents to confidently put in place the types of arrangements that nearly everybody and their brother has a need to create and then periodically update.


I would challenge those who are so proud of their rainbow banners to not forgot those who don’t have a lawyer friend or a reliable spouse to simplify these problems.  I’d challenge those sporting their Noah rainbows or Vatican flags or other signs of opposition not to forget the poor, the unusual, or the merely very ordinary.

File:Gregory IX approving decretals Raphael Rooms.jpg

Artwork by Giulio Romano [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons: Pope Gregory IX approves the Decretals handed to him by St Raymond of Penafort

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