Sunday, June 15, 2008

Taking Responsibility for your Life

I've been goofing off earnestly searching for time- money- and life-saving tips, and found this post:
Just as a little background, Celebrity Fit Factor is a show where 8 overweight celebrities sign up for an 8-week challenge to lose weight and get in shape. They go through all kinds of physical challenges, split into two teams.

Well, one of the worst competitors in Season 6 was Dustin, who really couldn’t complete any of the challenges because of various reasons — injuries, out of breath, just didn’t have it in him. One week, he didn’t even show up. Another week, he was calling his lawyer because the boot camp drill sargeant was calling him names.

And the whole time, Dustin went on and on about how he was being picked on, how nobody was backing him up, how everybody was against him.

I kept wanting to yell at the TV: “Wake up Dustin — you’re responsible for your situation! Nobody likes you because of your actions and attitude!”
I started thinking of this in the context of the SSM (Same Sex Marriage) debate.

Why is it so important?

Because of the health benefits - no, that can't be it. Many employers are already extending them to domestic partners.

Because of the right to make decisions for an incapacitated partner - no, that can't be it. Partners can already make durable Power of Attorneys that extend those rights - and specifically exclude family members from over-riding that decision.

Because of the adoption rights - no, that can't be it. Adoption of children is for the few; the supply of adoptable children is severely limited, so adoption agencies are very choosy. Many heteros are turned away, as well. Adoption of biological children? If there is an existing father or mother without custody, they will be automatically turned to, in case of death. That won't change. If the child is conceived while the partners are together, it shouldn't be a problem to allow adoption by a domestic partner.

Because of the Social Security benefits - no, that can't be it. Few of us married couples will take out benefits earned by a partner - that little situation is pretty much gone in the Boomer generation. Most of the women worked in their marriage, and will do better to take their income as earners, not wives. The relatively few that would do better, are those whose partner earned considerably more than they - not that many, in all. Future generations will be even less likely to collect a partner's earnings.

And the ones that DO collect as a SAHM (Stay-at-home-mom) will have done so, due to child care/elder care responsibilities. There aren't many of those left.

Society originally set up the SS system this way, because, when it originated, pregnancy wasn't something women scheduled or planned. Because it was unpredictable, the government gave them a break, and provided money to keep them from starving (BTW, the amount involved is generally REALLY puny).

Because of the pension benefits - no, that can't be it. Most of us will only be collecting the pension that we stuck in an IRA.

For that matter, why should a healthy person need to collect their partner's benefits? They should do what most of us married folks do, and go out and earn a living. This isn't a situation that came up suddenly - we have years to plan out what will happen when we die or become disabled.

The agitation, for most gays, started when relatively young men started dying of AIDS. They hadn't planned on dying young, and structures weren't in place for "what-ifs". Some truly unfair and inequitable situations occurred, when long-time partners were dumped on the street, or not been permitted to be there at the end.

I can certainly understand the distress this caused. They truly couldn't have reasonably anticipated the pickle they found themselves in.

However, that was then. This is now.

And, NOW, domestic partners need to have some discussions with lawyers, to sign the documents that will create the protections that marriage also provides. They will do it with contracts.

But, but...that's so UNFAIR - why should they have to sign a contract?

Because that's what underlies all marriages - a contract. When we marry, we make a contractual agreement. True, most of the protections and responsibilities are not laid out right then (mustn't scare the bridal kiddies), but they are available because of Contract Law.

But, but...Society treats us differently because we're not married.

No, kid, Society treats you differently because you are different. It's not a legal issue, it's a cultural issue.

And, whether SSM is made legal, or not, don't expect changes soon. The law may change to allow SSM, but nobody says that Society has to like it. And, judging from the votes when that Society is asked, they don't. You may be able to ram the legal recognition down people's throats, but they don't have to give you respect. You may wait a long time for family and co-workers to accept your choice, if ever. It's their choice to accept you and your partner - or not.

So, what this all is about is, take responsibility for yourself and those you care for. Get thee to a lawyer, and sign those agreements.

A great project for public-minded lawyers would be to create a legal package that sets up comparable protections/benefits/authorizations for domestic partners in that state. Once created, they could offer it on the Web, as a fill-in-the-blank, pay a small amount, print out and have witnessed, legal contract.

Stop whining for Society to change. Start taking action for yourself.

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