AZ, CA Highlight Queer Liberty

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It’s a big day in America today! If you close your eyes and take a big whiff, you can smell the distinct scent of democratic action. It’s sweet, yes, but with a bit of…taint.

A new study from the Williams Institute in Arizona concludes that queer couples make less than their straight counterparts, especially when there are children involved.

“Gay men earn less than straight men,” said Adam Romero, a public-policy fellow who co-authored the study. “Even when you hold constant occupation, race, geography, they earn less and that’s something economists would call discrimination.”

“When you only look for households where children are present, same-sex couples do much, much worse,” he said.

Same-sex parents in Arizona have lower median household incomes, $39,000 a year compared with $54,000 for married couples.

Those numbers are pretty distressing, especially considering that all of the presidential candidates tout our nation’s commitment to equality.

Meanwhile, next door in California, seven judges will hear oral arguments for and against gay marriage. We missed author Nancy D. Polikoff’s Los Angeles Times op-ed on the matter yesterday, but she’s got some pertinent points, particularly for the civil union endorsing presidential hopefuls:

Separate is not equal; it is a mark of second-class status.

But the quest for marriage rights has obscured a more fundamental problem in the law. Marriage is a bright line dividing relationships that matter from those that don’t — and it shouldn’t be.

Marriage is no longer the only way people organize their families and relationships. State-recognized domestic partnerships aren’t a good legal dividing line either. Those just extend rights to a few more people without questioning why such couples have these legal rights in the first place.

The law should value the families and relationships that people value. So a better approach is to ask why a particular law exists and then include within the law all the relationships appropriate to that purpose.

We can’t even begin to predict California’s outcome, nor do we know whether the Williams Institute’s findings will bring any real change. We do know, however, that no matter how many people vote today, our democracy’s still got a long way to go.