In last week’s post I began discussing some of the unique issues faced by seniors who are part of the LGBT community. Only within the past 20 years or so has marriage been an option for same sex couples. It is still an evolving area of the law as various states address or decline to address the issue. New Jersey has been in forefront in the sense that same sex couples have as many as 3 options to choose from, marriage, domestic partnership and civil union.
The New Jersey Domestic Partnership Act is a law that grants couples certain basic rights that married couples have such as the right to make health care decisions and to receive tax exemptions. Before either a civil union or marriage were possible, this was the only option for same sex couples. It remains an option now only for same sex and opposite sex couples who are 62 years of age or older, although it still applies to anyone who entered into a domestic partnership before the civil union law was passed or who entered into such a partnership in another state.
The law provides some of the same protections, rights and benefits that married couples have under New Jersey law. This includes the Law Against Discrimination which prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and credit. It also provides couples with the same status as married couples under state law for purposes of calculating income tax and New Jersey inheritance tax.
Civil unions became an option in 2007. A civil union is a legally recognized union of two individuals of the same sex. The parties must not be a member of another civil union, domestic partnership or marriage and cannot be closely related to each other such as a sibling, niece/nephew or ancestor. The process is similar to getting married. Civil unions provide more rights than the NJ Domestic Partnership Act.
In 2013 New Jersey became the 14th state to permit same sex marriage, which is recognized by the Social Security Administration, the New Jersey Division of Taxation, the Internal Revenue Service, Medicare and the New Jersey Department of Human Services which administers Medicaid. Once marriage became an option, it took away the need for domestic partnership.
So the process has been a gradual one. Domestic partnership afforded some rights to unmarried couples that married couples have. Civil union provided still more rights and benefits than the domestic partnership had. This all led to the availability of marriage in 2013.
But, how exactly does this impact the issues faced by aging seniors? Is marriage always best? We’ll discuss that next week.