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    House in order

    I somehow missed this when Michael first posted it and have ended up in the odd position of getting my Gay Orbit bulletin through that straight guy over there. The original article is from 365Gay, which isn’t always super-reliable, but I’m assuming it’s accurate in the main:

    During their 19-year relationship, Rene Price and Betty Jordan thought of themselves as married, especially after they registered as domestic partners on the last day of 2004.

    But after Price died unexpectedly in July, Jordan learned that she was not entitled to the couple’s Perth Amboy home, their cars, or the $9,000 in Price’s bank account.

    Price’s death at age 61 exposed one of the many places where New Jersey’s domestic partnership law does not treat partners like married couples: When a domestic partner without a will dies, the surviving partner has no right to his or her possessions.

    This kind of thing always pisses me the hell off. I agree with Michael’s commenter Don: “This is sad. But after 19 years of being together why didn’t they have arrangements already made?” You said it, brother.

    You know, Atsushi’s life insurance goes to his parents. He owns our apartment outright. We don’t have a joint bank account. He’s closeted to both his parents and his company, so we can’t do anything that would indicate official recognition of some kind of relationship between us. This is not my ideal arrangement, but my life with him is what’s most important to me, so I make the necessary compromises. I am, after all, the one who decided to fall in love with a traditionalist Japanese man. And he sacrifices things, too: his company doesn’t promote unmarried men up the management escalator. I make more or less as much money as he does and save responsibly, so I wouldn’t have major financial worries; but I would have to leave the artifacts of our shared life behind almost in their entirety and start over. This is not a fun topic of conversation, but we’ve considered it a necessary one. I know where I stand, and I’ve made my peace with it.

    Therefore, I find myself hard-pressed to lavish unalloyed sympathy on people who don’t make wills, don’t thoroughly acquaint themselves with the terms of their civil unions, and don’t do everything they can to make sure their partners are provided for when they have, from where I’m standing, all kinds of tools at their disposal. Jordan and Price were able to be public about their relationship. They took the availability of civil unions so casually that they put theirs off for six months while one of them decided what to wear. I want to see laws changed so we can provide for our partners as much as anyone does. I also hope things are settled in Jordan’s favor. But she and Price were irresponsible. It might not be fair that we have worries that straight married couples do not, but it’s reality.

    4 Responses to “House in order”

    1. caltechgirl says:

      I agree with you, FWIW. That’s why when two of my dear friends decided to make it permanent, the first thing I told them was to find a damn good lawyer. They’ve now covered all the bases, from survivor rights to hospital visitation to custody issues should they choose to adopt or use a surrogate. They laid it all out on the table.

      What I found most interesting was that by doing this they had a chance to hash out their life issues and learn more about what their partnership would be about. Straight couples usually get to do this in pre-marital counseling (depending on the church that marries them). So not only is it prudent legally, but it gives couples an opportunity to “be on the same page” about finances, children, and what their goals are for the future that they might not otherwise get. In my experience, this generally strengthens the relationship and is a good thing to do before taking the plunge.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      What do you mean “FWIW”? These sorts of contracts affect everyone. Court cases cost money, time, and energy. So does worrying about how a friend or family member is going to get through when her partner dies. Those are issues for all of adult society, not just gay people.

    3. Alice says:

      This insidious myth that your future is safe as soon as the state says you’re married is really dangerous. There are a million things that can go wrong from stupidity and bad planning, for anyone and everyone. The issue, as you say, is being sensible; the state does not protect “married” people the way people think it does already.

      (I could write reams about it, but feeling a little bit morning-after right now, not sure if that bit even makes total sense…uh)

    4. Sean Kinsell says:

      Makes perfect sense. And you’re right: there are a lot of gay people who have this idea that state-sanctioned marriage is a panacea, but straight relationships take place in varied personal contexts, too. People get burned all the time, either by bad planning or by lucklessness.

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