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Legal Issues Facing Gay Men: WITH an expert speaker

                • Legal Issues Facing Gay Men

– and their personal and community connotations

Because part of the issues for this Salon really require expertise, we will have a longer-than-usual introduction of thirty to forty-five minutes before moving on to our usual small group dialogues.  Our speaker will be well-known attorney, Frederick Hertz, advisor to marrying and divorcing gay couples, and author of multiple books on married and unmarried gay and lesbian couples; see also <>

Prop 8 has been invalidated and the 3rd section of DOMA also has been ruled unconstitutional (hurrah!); in California same-sex couples are now free to marry and enjoy all of the rights AND duties of marriage under both state and federal law.  This includes the tax exemptions given to married couples, the right to Social Security benefits for spouses and survivors of a marriage, and the ability to transfer assets -- both investment and retirement assets, either upon death or dissolution of the marriage.  The legal complexities and difficulties that same-sex couples faced in the past have now been eliminated.  

Thus, the question for same-sex couples is no longer one of access to marriage -- rather, it is the question of whether marriage and the accompanying legal rules are right for you and your partner.   Now we CAN do it, but SHOULD we? The marital law system is based upon a notion of a couple as a single economic unit, sharing assets and debts and taking on long term financial responsibilities.  In many respects it is a profoundly heteronormative system of rules, a kind of "marital" relationship that is very foreign to many couples in our community.

Couples must now decide whether they wish to marry, and if so, whether they wish to deviate from the standard marital rules by signing a pre- or post-marital agreement.  Our speaker has said that, from his experience dealing with many same-sex couples, the customary marital rules developed from a heteronormative system are not the right fit for many of us -- yet dealing with coupling issues and developing our own standards can be very difficult. 

Some key questions to be addressed by our speaker:

1.  For each particular couple, what are the marital rules and benefits that are most relevant?  For which sorts of couples is marriage a "good" option, and which couples should be cautious about getting married?

2.  What aspects of the marital rules are unwelcome to either or both partners?  How does community property work in California?  Are couples legally required to share their incomes equally?

3.  What can a married couple accomplish in a pre- or post-marital agreement?

4.  Do the legal rules for marriage require monogamy and punish adultery or infidelity?  Even it they don’t, do these issues enter into judge, jury or arbitrator decisions for a couple in divorce or other conflicts?

5.  What are the legal rules for gay NOT-married couples around such issues as hospital visitation, wills, right to make decisions for a non-competent partner?

Some small group discussion questions:


1.  What constitutes a couple in our own and our community’s perspectives?  What are the economic relationship couples now follow, and how might getting married change these arrangements – AND their relationships?

2.  Should a couple have a pre-nuptial agreement?  What are the advantages and disadvantages?  What does having such an arrangement say about their relationship

3.  How do gay men and lesbians feel about community property, shared debt responsibilities, sharing their incomes?  What perspectives are desirable for the individuals; for the gay community culture?

4.  What are the obligations - legal, moral or other - of the higher income/higher asset partner towards his or her partner? 


5.  How can an unmarried gay couple most effectively discuss and decide upon such a momentous issue as marriage – or is it not “such a momentous issue”?

6.  In thinking about getting married, how can we go about evaluating the likelihood that our relationship will last?

7.  Would marriage mean -- for you -- reconceptualizing the very nature of "our relationship”? Does it involve changing how we view both each other and the relationship? – (E.g., that it’s not entirely about love or lust but more issues of committing to a “life partnership” in our time on this planet?) 


8.   How do we reconcile our desire for social acceptance and legal benefits with our reluctance to embrace the marital law system in its entirety?

9.   What does being “a couple” mean to yourself, your partner, our community?  Is it likely that marriage for same-sex couples will change marriage, or will it more dramatically change our relationships? 

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  • Lorenzo

    Thanks for your response, Richard. I know that you guys work very hard to develop the topics. I am sure that it was an oversight, but it was announced as a gay marriage discussion, then changed to legal issues of gay men. It does highlight the growing divide between married and single LGBT people, which might be a good topic for a future salon or maybe on a more basic level whether gays are changing marriage or whether marriage is changing gay life.

    November 9, 2013

  • Lorenzo

    Despite the subject, this is only about legal issues that gay couples face. All the questions are specifically about same-sex marriage and the marital system. This seems to me to be yet another thinly-vieled gay marriage discussion and marginalization of those without a husband or live-in partner. Perhaps this is why there is a lack of interest in this salon.

    I know that the struggle and victory for same-sex marriage was momentous for the gay community, but getting a marriage license is not the only legal issue that gay men face. Some of us have used the legal system to address employment and housing discrimination; single people have issues around wills and estates; they need to protect asset and complete medical powers of attorney, etc. On a day when the Senate is voting on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, it's disappointing that we are not finding space in the arena of gay ideas for non-couples or to give voice to the legal needs of single gay men.

    1 · November 6, 2013

    • Richard S.

      One more comment- having said that, we had a lively & informative discussion last night. Fred Hertz, our speaker was extremely knowledgeable.

      November 7, 2013

    • Devon R.

      Going forward, can you be more elaborate about an upcoming meeting called "HIV?" Is it HIV pervention, life of HIV globaly, affected/ infected, socal impact, HIV history, various treatments, understanding life with HIV, the impact of government continuous cut-backs to the HIV community while HIV- get out of the recession, closeted HIV+ vs. out of the closet HIV+ people, dental insurence for the HIV+, keeping friends and family involve with one's HIV, disclosing to others (family, friends, co-workers, partners, newly dating prospects, sex dates), financial differences between HIV- vs HIV+, the losses for both HIV+/-, discrimination issues, extra.
      My point is to call a meeting "HIV" is too vague for a subject that is just as wide as it is as deep. I truely hope it is not a basic HIV 101 health course. That it is wet-hands evolved exchange instead of read articles as its bases.

      I'll ask again, who are the facilitators for the HIV meeting? Are they HIV+?

      November 7, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great, knowledgable speaker and very informative.

    1 · November 7, 2013

  • Michael D.

    Hate this, but I'm going to be stuck at work tonight. Unfortunately I'm not going to be able to attend.. project just won't be wrapped up in time.

    November 6, 2013

  • Devon R.

    Sorry guys, I'm still under the weather. Have a great gathering.

    November 1, 2013

  • Lee R.

    In my evolving view, this is NOT just a legal issue but goes to the very heart of how we view our relationship -- and this in turn has many emotional and practical implications. I was very surprised to find that "just a word" had such symbolic importance to me -- and in fact I now better understand the opposition to this commendable shift which previously had just seemed puzzling.

    2 · November 1, 2013

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