This past weekend, the top story for nearly every American LGBT and queer person has been the legalization of same-sex marriage. For those of us out there who’ve been dying to ruin the sanctity of marriage for all the straighties, it was a big win.
Finally, queers of all stripes can have their own big, fabulous weddings, piss off Christian bakers with their gay cake orders, and then go home to watch some Texan pastors set themselves ablaze. Okay, so the pastor thing won’t really happen, but the first two are probably happening like right now. The point is, gay marriage! Freedom! Love wins! Marriage equality for all!
Er, hold that last thought.
Marriage between couples of the same sex may be allowed now, but that doesn’t mean that marriage is now an institution of equality. For one thing, getting same-sex married may just be the cool new way to let your boss know you’re LGBT, so they can fire you. Though, of course, that’s an issue with plain old vanilla discrimination, not of marriage being less equal.
But, yay! Marriage equality! Everyone who loves another consenting adult can now marry that consenting adult, right?
Kinda. If you’re a disabled queer who receives financial assistance from the government and you marry another disabled queer, and you both receive financial assistance from the government, you can get married. Nothing’s stopping you. Except, of course, the looming threat of having your and your partner’s income slashed and you falling into poverty. Yeah, that kind of might be stopping you a bit. Just a bit.
What am I talking about, you ask? I’m talking about the marriage penalties that affect people on disability insurance. Essentially, when you receive money for a disability — via Social Security Disability Insurance, Social Security Insurance, etc. — or if you have health coverage like Medicaid, and you get married, your new spouse’s income may make it so that you no longer qualify for your disability money or for Medicaid.
Oh, and if you’re both on a form of disability insurance? They’ll cut the amount both of you receive, because as we all know, when two people get married they suddenly become one singular person who uses considerably fewer resources than two separate people.
Essentially, when you get married, your safety net looks at your partner, assumes you can rely on them alone, and straight up ditches you. Of course, that safety net was peanuts anyways (roughly $1,000 per month on average), but a peanut still beats out half-a-peanut in terms of “things you can live off of.”
The point is, a queer disabled couple can now totally get married (and then get fired if they had jobs), but they’ll take such a financial hit that it would be silly for them to do so. So no, marriage equality has not entirely been achieved.
Of course, none of this is meant to dampen the gay marriage fueled pride parade going through your head. Now is a time for celebrating the success of the queer community. However, we must also always be looking out for the next injustice to fight, and right now the disabled community is feeling that injustice.
So what can be done about this issue of marriage equality? The same things that were done for gay marriage. People have to fight to change the way things are, where a disabled couple can face penalties for expressing their love. There are petitions for this very issue, and it never hurts to spread the word, letting your friends know that this problem exists, and how discriminatory it is towards disabled people.
We fought for equal marriage rights for queer people; now it’s time to do the same for disabled people.
(featured image via philippe leroyer)