According to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ rights organization, there are 1,138 benefits, rights and protections provided to married couples that are not available to same-sex couples. Michigan is one of those states.

Imagine if your spouse was in an automobile accident, and you rushed to the emergency room desperate to know she was ok. When you inquired as to her location at the desk, you were told that because you were not her legal spouse or a member of her family, you were not admitted. This happens every day to same-sex couples because this right, among many other benefits, is only available to legally married couples.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse brought their case after a frightening close call driving one winter day led them to realize if one of them were to perish, one or more of their children could be placed with family that they don’t even know rather than staying with their other parent. This was a devastating thought that spurred them to take action to gain the right to adopt each other’s children. The judge in their case, Bernard Friedman, encouraged them to include a challenge to the same-sex marriage ban to get at the real problem behind not being able to jointly adopt.

The judge ruled that the ban was unconstitutional, and during one day in March, 300 couples were wed and now enjoy federal benefits. However, these benefits are still currently denied to most same-sex couples because of their inability to marry due to a stay on the ban. These couples currently lie in wait, holding out for a permanent reversal of the ban, which is currently before three U.S. Sixth Circuit Court Judges: Jeffrey Sutton, Deborah Cook and Martha Daughtrey. If they decide not to overturn the ban, the case will then be sent to the U.S. Supreme Court to decide once and for all. It is thought that they will decide in favor of marriage equality.

We live in America, home of the free, where all are created equal except for same-sex couples, who are treated as second-class citizens by not being permitted to marry. Equal rights and protections are denied to these couples and their children. As a nation, we claim to treasure freedom and equality, but in reality, we just aren’t there yet.

Why aren’t we there yet? Some critics believe that the children of same-sex couples do not fare as well, however the concerns about same-sex parenting are unfounded according to a report recently published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which examined 30 years of research on this topic. According to the report, “Many studies have demonstrated that children’s well-being is affected much more by their relationships with their parents, their parents’ sense of competence and security, and the presence of social and economic support for the family than by the gender or the sexual orientation of their parents.”

The impact of us not being there yet is immense. According to a study by Mark Hatzenbuehler published in The American Journal of Public Health, psychiatric disorders were significantly increased in LGBTQ individuals in states that actively banned same-sex marriage as compared to states that did not. The results were significant, with a 36.6-percent increase in mood disorder, a 248.2-percent increase in generalized anxiety disorder, 41.9-percent increase in alcohol use disorder and a 36.3-percent increase in psychiatric comorbidity. Add to that the financial inequality of a lack of partner health care benefits, income tax breaks and Social Security benefits, and it’s a pretty bleak picture.

What would it look like if we lived up to our stated values? Same-sex couples would have access to the same rights and privileges as traditionally married couples. They would be granted the simple right to marry and to provide two legal parents for their children. Children would live without being singled out or stigmatized by having same-sex parents; they would be assumed equal, like everyone else. With same-sex parental rights socially and legally legitimized, over time, these children would experience less humiliation coming from peer ignorance on the matter. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in his brief striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act in March noted about the ban that the “purpose and effect (is) to disparage and to injure” those in same-sex marriages, subjecting them to “a stigma” that “humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples.”

The evidence and the will of the people support overturning the Michigan ban on same-sex marriage. Until this country has rights that protect and honor all of our citizens, we are lying to ourselves if we believe in the fantasy of equality in America. With recent progress in the courts, I hold out hope that we are well on our way to living up to the reputation on which this country was founded.

Molly Indura is a first-year Social Work student.

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