THE BLOG
09/15/2014 05:22 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Marriage Equality, a Road to Freedom

Scott Olson via Getty Images

One point I try to get across to uninformed individuals -- uninformed about the purpose and nature of marriage -- is that the law -- both common law and statutory law -- makes assumptions about family. You are born into a family and that family has inheritance rights, rights to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so, etc. Marriage is a means to change these presumptions from your family of birth, to your family of choice. Those rights are transferred to the spouse and/or children as the case may be.

Gay couples found the law favored parents over partners because they were not allowed to marry. An anti-gay parent could swoop in and claim inheritance rights if their child died. Most people die intestate -- they have no will -- but even having a will is no guarantee. Greedy or bigoted parent can challenge wills and the courts have sided with them numerous times. Marriage makes that sort of challenge almost impossible.

We have seen numerous cases of anti-gay types using the fact that gay couples couldn't marry against the partner of their deceased child. A transgendered woman in Texas was legally married to a firefighter killed in the line of duty. Death benefits were substantial and his greedy relatives immediately went for the jugular. They claimed that since Nikki Araguz was born male, the marriage was invalid, and they, as family of birth should receive the benefits.

Nikki was legally married for two years but the family contends that Thomas Araguz was "deceived" and never knew he married a transgendered woman. They took it to court where a Texas judge upheld their claim and said the marriage was invalid and nullified it. His parents also prevented Nikki from seeing her step-children. After years of court battles Nikki eventually won.

The anti-gay religious kooks know that marriage allows people to pick their own families and they don't like it! A theocratic group, The Foundation for Moral Law, filed an amicus brief in one of the marriage-related court cases. They did so on behalf of a woman whose son was gay, had married his partner in Massachusetts, but he lived in Alabama, which passed a law preventing gay couples from marrying lest it offend the sensibilities of backwoods fundamentalist Neanderthals.

David Francher legally married Paul Hard and was killed in a car accident but, the brief argues, "The mother of David Francher does not want her son's name used to advance the cause of same-sex marriage" and the Foundation now represents her. Actually, her wishes are immaterial. Her son was gay. She knew it. He didn't hide it. He openly married his partner. I think it fair to say he supported same-sex marriage.

David's estate would go to his spouse, if married, and his mother, if not married. The mother is arguing that Alabama law refuses to recognize her son's own explicit desire to be the legal spouse of Paul Hard. Thus Paul is not the husband and inherits nothing and the mother, doing the will of Jesus, gets everything. In my mind, that's greed, not love.

Nikki Araguz lost her loving husband, the family is used anti-gay laws to drag her through the courts. Paul Hard, lost his husband in a tragic car accident, but is not recognized as a spouse, so he had to fight in court.

Patrick Atkins didn't die. He suffered an aneurysm that incapacitated him. For 25 years, he shared his life with his partner, Brett Conrad. Patrick was in Atlanta on a business trip when it happened. Brett rushed to his side, so did Patrick's anti-gay mother, Jeanne Atkins.

Brett got to the hospital, only to be told he was banned from Patrick's room on request of "next-of-kin," Jeanne. Living in Indiana at that time, Patrick and Brett were never allowed to legally marry and Jeanne was going to use that to make Brett's life a living hell. Jeanne openly stated she would rather her son never recover than return to his partner. All this based on her ultra-orthodox Catholicism.

Staff at the hospital sneaked Brett in to see Patrick so Jeanne had her son moved to another facility. Again, she ordered Brett be kept out, and again staff sneaked Brett in. Jeanne had Patrick moved to her home and hired a nurse to care for him, with strict orders that he was to never see or speak to his partner.

Jeanne took over Patrick's multi-million dollar business. She took his home and evicted Brett from it. She cleaned out Patrick's bank account -- all because she was his legal guardian because the law did not recognize same-sex relationships.

Brett was forced to endure court trials as he tried to assert his right to see his partner. The court, however, said he was not family, and couldn't be family because state law forbade same-sex marriages. Jeanne got to keep the company. She was allowed to evict Brett from the home he and Patrick shared, but the judge ruled she had to give him half the money -- the rest went to her. She was ordered to allow reasonable visitation for Brett and had to give him 1/3rd of the funds in his and Patrick's joint account but none from the investment account. Worst of all, Brett was not allowed to care for the man he loved.

Jeanne wasn't satisfied and forced Brett into another legal nightmare. She appealed to the state Supreme Court to try to enforce her desire to prevent Brett from seeing Patrick. The Court refused to hear the case, so the ordeal finally ended.

There is a false assumption by many, that getting married causes the state to "intrude" on one's life. However, it is not the state of marriage that caused Nikki, Paul and Brett to spend so much time in government courtrooms, spending so much money on legal representation.

As Jason Kuznicki, of the Cato Institute, wrote "recognition of marriage serves to leave people alone and makes them more free to live their lives as they see fit."

A legal marriage in their own state would have reduced state interference. Taking away the power to forbid same-sex marriage frees people from lots of government interference. In reality, what so many assume is perfectly backwards. Marriage reduces state interference in a person's life; it does not increase it. Nikki, Paul and Bret can explain why.