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We do have issues. Some are personal, some are within our community, some are how we are treated within our countries, and some are the misconception some people have about us.

Would you marry if you could? That is a huge commitment. You could not just pack your bags and leave if you chose to, presumably because of the financial intermingling of assets. There is a lot to be said for just living together forever. In the heterosexual world there is the option to marry or not. The marriage rates are down, the divorce rates up and living together is a socially acceptable option.

So why marry? One reason is the tax benefit. For example, married people get health coverage for spouses that is not added salary to be taxed. Social security benefits are available for survivors; death benefits and income are there for married survivors. Children also are a trigger for people choosing to marry. Some still feel the stigma of a "bastard" child. However, society is much more forgiving these days about the transgressions of the parents. There have been changes in schools, health systems, and financial systems so that marital status is less controlling than in previous generations. However, for stability, for commitment, for security, for assurance of parental influence, getting married remains the standard precursor to a "family with children."

As more and more gay and lesbian couples decide to have children - adopted, foster, or biological - new challenges are dealt with on a state-by-state basis. Yet the most basic, missing link is a legally sanctioned protection for the property, inheritance and offspring of the non-traditional family. Because of this, there is no automatic protection for any of the members of the "family" structure, meaning that every aspect of social protection must be created artificially.

The Civil Unions now recognized in Vermont may be the precursor and role model for other states. Natural difficulties include achieving reciprocity in other states and will occur over the long haul. Yet each victory for civil recognition will provide more stability and protection for the long term. Congratulations to Vermont. Who will be next?

Survivors Benefits
In view of the uncertainty of life, there is nothing more important for survivors than an assurance that their quality of life can be maintained upon the demise of a partner. Many court cases are based on survival rights when there is no will or testimony of the relationship. In such cases, "legal" heirs may assume their inheritance without regard for long-existing but legally unrecognized relationships. Put it in writing, have a will, do the simple paper work to protect your partner from further pain with your demise. Work with an attorney to get the legal protection you need for yourself and your family. This becomes even more important as marriage and domestic partnerships are offered in some states and not in other. Protecting the children must be paramount as geographic moves are made into hostile territory. We are all going to die; get over it, and be proactive.

Marriage the new horizon
The past few months have just caused a social revolution and opportunities for gay and lesbian couples to marry. The legality of the marriages may be in question as states and cities are issuing marriage licenses. For a long time I thought getting married was really not necessary if we could have civil unions. I have absolutely changed my mind about accepting less than full recognition of my relationship. In that regard Diane and I were married in Portland, Oregon on 19 March 2004. And it does make a difference. We came home with this strange sense of legitimacy after being together for 15 years. There is a sense of legal recognition that may not be real but certainly feels that we have a societal recognition we did not have before. It is just a big, big deal for us as our love continues to flurish.

Grethe Cammermeyer
Out and Proud Every Day

Related Links
Pritzker Military Library
Extensive private military library and more, available to public.

Intersex the unspoken sexual minority
The Intersex Society of North America (ISNA) is a nonprofit advocacy group working on behalf of people with intersex conditions. ISNA's mission is to end shame, secrecy, and unwanted genital surgeries for children born with atypical reproductive anatomies. In the U.S. alone, five children are subject to harmful surgeries every day. ISNA advocates an ethically sound, patient-centered approach to intersex treatment, and works directly with health care professionals to change medical practices. ISNA also engages in public education efforts to end the idea that intersexuality is shameful or freakish.