“Every single American – gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, transgender – every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of our society. It’s a pretty simple proposition,” said President Barak Obama at the Human Rights Campaign national dinner in 2011. Seated in the audience were a number of Black gay men, including LZ Granderson, senior writer for ESPN magazine; Alvin McEwen, contributor to The Huffington Post; Justin Stewart, producer for WJLA-ABC 7 News; and Michael Crawford, Digital Director of the Freedom to Marry campaign. Some of them applauded, while others choose not to after the president’s statement. Even though, they all were concerned about the possibility of marriage for all, none of them thought they’d see it during their lifetime.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry. The unprecedented decision was a period at the end of a forty-six year old sentence, which started when patrons at a gay bar rallied after a police raid.
So what does the ruling mean for Black gay men?
Same-sex couples can now apply for veteran’s benefits and Social Security. The Social Security Administration issued a statement encouraging “spouses, divorced spouses, or surviving spouses of a same-sex marriage or non-marital legal same-sex relationship” to apply for benefits right away.
According to Kathleen Michon, a lawyer, “ a surviving spouse of a worker entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits may be entitled to receive retirement benefits based on the deceased spouse’s earning record.”
Michon added, “for retired married couples, a person whose calculated Social Security benefit is lower than that of his or her spouse may take half of his or her spouse’s higher benefit, rather than receive the amount calculated from his own earnings.”
Other benefits that same-sex couples can benefit from include: tax benefits, estate tax and estate planning, immigration benefits, education benefits, and federal employment benefits.
“More than twenty-two million Americans are employed by the federal government,” Michon said. “Many of the employment benefits that the federal government provides to its employees and their families are tied to marital status. These benefits, which are part of the employee’s compensation package, are denied to unmarried employees. Examples of a few of these benefits include: health insurance for spouses, and wages, worker’s compensation, and health insurance.”
Children of same-sex couples may benefit as well from the ruling. They “now have access to programs designed to keep them out of poverty,” said Crosby Burns, a former policy analyst of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress. “This includes Social Security benefits, which offer thousands of children the economic support they need when their parents are no longer able to financially provide for them due to old age, disability or death.”
Surprisingly, all Black gay men aren’t thrilled over the ruling. In a closed Facebook Group, Older and Mature Black Men for Friendship and Relationships, a member posted, “The right to marry does not require us to do it.” The replies were one-sided. One member stated that, “I have always fantasized about the idea of me dating a guy and the both of us being fiercely independent, with our own homes, vehicles, and independent agendas and that we’d come to meet as often as a married couple.” Another member wrote, “isn’t for everyone.” One of the group’s moderators commented, “a twenty-seven year old person proposed to me and asked me to marry them. This same-sex marriage thing has gotten out of hand.”
Why aren’t all gays happy over the ruling?
A small minority within the community feels as if marriage equality overshadows other more pressing issues like “police brutality,” “homophobia,” “access to quality education,” “cuts to public services,” “the number of people of color in prison,” “employment protection for gays, lesbians, and transgender people,” and “LGBTQ Blacks finding acceptance within the Black mainstream.” Others simply do not believe in gay marriage or straight marriage, for the matter, and believe in living a singular existence. While, others feel the institution of marriage is a trap to force gays to assimilate into the “straight agenda.”
Although some people in the community cringed the day the decision was announced, the Supreme Court is sitting on the right side of history by giving same-sex couples the option to choose if they want to get married.