For those who don’t know, Kath and I have been trying to register for Domestic Partnership benefits, since she doesn’t currently have health coverage after transitioning jobs and she’s only working part time at the moment. In California, you have to be same-sex to register for a DP (I’m not sure about the history but in other states, ie. Massachusetts, this is a result of gay-marriage campaigns) and meet certain requirements, which are, not surprisingly, slightly more stringent/specific/invasive than marriage. You can have an opposite sex DP, but only if one person is 62+ years old (which I think is for the sake of people who have eldercare situations). We’d very seriously considered getting legally married, but were concerned about the long-term ramifications, and the fact that it’s hella expensive (at least $65 for the license, $25 for the officiation… and that’s not to mention the dress, or the possible divorce expenses!).
We thought we finally found a loophole, which is that the university allows you to register a DP internally, rather than with the state, and has all of the same requirements, except the age issue. Some of you may be thinking that this is too deceptive or elaborate or what-have-you, but Kath and I have known each other since second grade, and have been very very close for the past six years, and genuinely are Domestic Partners to the extent that we share most living expenses and obligations (okay, we don’t have a mortgage or own major property together, but please!) and we plan to live together for the foreseeable future.
The other day I was trying to officially register her for benefits, when the online system told me she had to be 62 because we’re opposite-sex. Feeling indignant and thinking I’d outsmarted the system, I consulted the brochure I’d been reading, so I could prove that this wasn’t the case. But then I found a small sentence, set apart from the general qualifications for a DP:
For health and welfare benefits for opposite-sex domestic partners, one or both must be over age 62 and eligible for Social Security benefits based on age.
I talked to my new co-worker (who I like) about it because she saw it on my desk. Then I sent Kath an email with the subject “FUCK FUCK FUCK.”
So, we’re back to square one again, and marriage has not been taken off of the table. But I’m just so pissed. I know that in some ways we were trying to cheat the system, but the system is just messed up. Everyone should have healthcare. Period. And if the state and employers are going to organize relationships and other benefits, they really should do a better job of understanding relationships based on care, support, commitment, and love, rather than just assumptions of sex (it’s not even reproduction anymore, just sex).
Interestingly, this op-ed by Stephanie Coontz was published in the New York Times on the exact same day. I mainly agree with it, but had some differences. I wrote this letter to the editor:
Oddly, Stephanie Coontz’s argument for alternatives to state marriage was published on the day that my housemate and I discovered that we were ineligible for domestic partnership benefits through the University of California. As queer friends who have known each other since childhood — and who share what household expenses and duties we have at our young age – domestic partnership would have defined our relationship and eased some financial burdens of living in the Bay Area.
Differing slightly from Coontz, I would argue that it is not merely time for couples to decide for themselves “if they want the legal protections… of a committed relationship,” but rather, to disentangle these benefits from the idea of a discrete “couple.” Instead, legal partnerships should be expanded to allow individual choices in how to distribute particular benefits and responsibilities within any number of loving or care-giving relationships — sexual partners, relatives, neighbors, or even close friends.
In any event, we’ll figure it out. And there will still be a wedding of some kind, hopefully at the Palace of Fine Arts. Kathleen and I both intend to have pregnant bellies. I’m going to wear a dress.
[i have a photo of kath proposing to me, which i’ll post later.]