Protections and Responsibilities of Marriage
There are over 1,100 protections and responsibilities conferred on married couples by the federal government including access to health care, parenting and immigration rights, social security, veterans and survivor benefits, and transfer of property—and that doesn't include several hundred state and local laws, protections conferred by employers, or the intangible security, dignity, respect, and meaning that comes with marriage. Excluding committed same-sex couples from marriage means shutting out families from the safety and security created by these protections and responsibilities.
Taken as a whole, marriage law reveals a social consensus about how to treat two people who voluntarily pledge to care for each other and their children. Marriage laws enable (or require) couples to fulfill the most common wedding vows:
In sickness and in health. Marriage automatically enables spouses to visit each other in the hospital; to make each others' emergency medical decisions; to share a family health plan; and to take medical leave to care for a sick spouse or child.
For richer and for poorer. Marriage means that governments, banks, credit card companies, and other financial institutions will consider both spouse's incomes, assets, or debts in such matters as taxes, credit, loans, inheritance, divorce settlements, and eligibility for public housing, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits.
When a child joins the family. Marriage automatically enables the spouses to be joint parents, covering such situations as making school or medical decisions, applying for passports, passing on inheritances, or being eligible for visitation rights and child support obligations if the parents separate.
When death parts the pair. Marriage law enables a survivor to continue to care for (or be cared for by) the dead partner in such situations as making funeral arrangements, inscribing an epitaph, inheriting a lease, filing wrongful death claims, taking bereavement leave, and passing on property.