By Halie Woody
Grande Ledge Gazette staff writer
When Ann Arbor resident Paula Weber got legally married in March, along with 300 plus couples, her celebration was quickly met with despair when a stay was issued.The immediate stay placed Weber and her partner in a legal limbo. The couple was now eligible for federal benefits but no state. Both of the two are self-employed and this put the future of their business in jeopardy.
“Our home is the location of our business, and is our primary investment for the last 18 years as homeowners,” Weber said. “Even though we have joint ownership of our home, if one of us dies our share would not pass to the surviving owner (spouse) without an inheritance tax.”
Despite being legally married the couple would not be treated the same way a heterosexual couple would under the circumstances of death.
“A married couple is not subjected to a hefty tax on their own home upon the death of their spouse. This was (and is) a huge concern for us, said Weber.”
Weber is not the only one fighting the battle to gain equal rights. Same sex couples all over Michigan are suffering from the decision not to recognize marriages.
Taking a hit economically
Without any recognition same sex couples are not eligible for benefits offered through the state including healthcare, state taxes, inheritance taxes, etc. Being that these couples aren’t receiving state benefits there is a devastating impact from an economic standpoint.
East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett says that without state benefits these couples will have to chip out much more than a heterosexual couple.
“They have to file taxes separately and keep in mind if their spouse passes whatever they leave behind will have a large inheritance tax,” Triplett said. “It’s going to be a really complex process.”
Triplett went on to say same sex couples are denied the right to make certain tax claims that apply to married couples. If a spouse dies and there is no will, there is no direct inheritance.
Lastly couples in a same sex marriage may have to pay taxes on their health plans.
Conversely employees of the government will be eligible for benefits while people employed by the state are not.
“The way it looks is if you work for the government you’re going to be fine,” said Gavin Rienne,” a student and member of the LBGT resource center at MSU. “If you’re working under the state you won’t be.”
No matter what your employer’s stance on same sex marriage is, they are unable to do anything. “Even if your employer wants to offer you benefits they can’t legally,” Rienne said.
Michigan voter support in same sex marriage increases
According to a survey in Mlive.com conducted by Michigan State University the number of people who voted on banning same sex marriage has dropped perilously.
In 2004, 59 percent of Michiganders voted on banning gay marriage. The poll conducted by MSU this spring found that 54 percent of people approve gay marriage while only 39 percent remains disapproving.
An explanation as to why there is an increase in approval of gay marriage is because 87 percent of Americans know relative or acquaintance that is gay while a minority, 45 percent, see homosexuality as a sin, according to reports from Mlive.com.
The fight for equal rights continues
While marriage same sex marriage remains illegal until the U.S. Appeals Court rules otherwise, supporters of equal rights fight to get their voice heard.Anyone in support of the cause can sign the petition asking Gov. Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette to appeal Judge Friedman’s ruling.
Executive director for Equality Michigan, Emily Dievendorf, encourages anyone in support of same sex marriage to sign the petition.
“You’re making a statement that the people are not on the side of the leadership,” Dievendorf said.
Furthermore to signing petitions, same sex couples are suing the government to continue to press how banning gay marriage is unconstitutional. The idea that same sex couples are not allowed access to the same benefits of a married couple are being challenged throughout the state.
Andrew Bigelow, a QA Validation Consultant and Michigan native, feels that the issue can be directly related back to segregation.
“It’s like making a black person drink at a different water fountain because they’re different but saying it’s OK,” Bigelow said. “You can’t have separate but equal.”
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*Map pictures were taken by me, Picture of poll was taken off of Mlive.com and the Michigan picture was taken off of freedomtomarry.org