Jennifer and Carolyn
My name is Jennifer Curran. My partner, Carolyn Thomas, and I live in Falmouth, ME with our 4 year old daughter, Meghan.
We will celebrate our 13th anniversary this May. During this time we have experienced everything that every married couple experiences: the illness and death of parents; the joy of having a child together; the illness of one of us; buying a home; the ups and downs of our individual careers and the joys and pains of our siblings.
The one thing we have not been able to experience, however, is the joy of being married. We want to get married for a lot of reasons — some rational and practical and some completely emotional. I wish my dad knew, before he died in June 2010, that his daughter would never end up alone with a child to care for. I wanted him to know that my decision to leave my job to raise our child would not destine me to a life of -financial insecurity should our relationship end. I believe our daughter deserves the safety and security of parents who are married, who legally can marry.
Through out our 13 years together, we have taken various steps to try to achieve the protections that marriage provides. These protections are better than having done nothing, but they do not come close to the protections that we could achieve simply by getting married. When we purchased our first home together, we visited our attorney and drew up wills to ensure that in the event of the death of one of us, the other one would inherit the other half of our home. We executed living wills to ensure that we each could make medical decisions for the other one in the event of a catastrophic illness. We also specified that we wanted each other to be able to claim the deceased's body and make funeral arrangements in the event of death.
We did this because we knew our wishes would not be honored by our families otherwise. Prior to the birth of our daughter, I had to update my will, naming Carolyn as guardian should I die in child birth. After the baby was born we went to court so that Carolyn could become the baby's co-guardian. Finally, in April 2008, she was legally allowed to adopt our daughter, a child that the legal system considered only to be my daughter, despite the fact that Carolyn was there when she was conceived, she was born and every moment in between.
There are also financial considerations. Year after year I am astounded at the disadvantaged position we as a family find ourselves in because we can't get married. For example, Carolyn carries me on her health insurance, which results in her having to report imputed income on the cost of my health benefits. We have also found that taxable income is calculated differently than that of her married co-workers: her out of pocket cost of obtaining health insurance for my me cannot be included in her Cafeteria 125 expense figure, thus it is not deductible when Calculating taxable income.
After adopting our daughter, my partner tried to claim the child tax credit, only to find out that her benefits under this program are limited because the IRS views her as a single head of household filer. The same applies to the State of Maine Property Tax Relief Program. When she calculated what her federal tax liability would be if she were allowed to file "married filing jointly" instead of "single — head of household". I found to my amazement that she pays 40% more in federal income taxes today than she would if we were allowed to marry. Recently, her employer switched to a high deductible medical plan which requires the use of a Health Savings Account. While my partner can cover me under the plan (once the deductable is reached), IRS rules do not allow you to withdraw funds from my Health Savings Account to pay for expenses incurred for a domestic partner.
Our family has the same responsibilities as every other family. We want our family, and in particular our child, to enjoy all the same rights and advantages as everyone else. We don't want to just cross our fingers and hope that we've thought of everything we need to do to protect our family. We are a committed couple. We are parents, partners, sisters, daughters, neighbors and friends. We help others and they help us. We hope for the opportunity to stand up in our church surrounded by our friends and families, and get: married. We are two loving, devoted partners working through life's ups and downs, loving, supporting and guiding one another.