FAMILY LIFE: Glossary of legal terms

Attorney Rebecca Covell says that to secure the same rights a legally married couple gets with a marriage license, there are six documents same-sex couples need: a medical power of attorney, a statutory durable power of attorney, a declaration of guardianship, a directive to physicians, an appointment of agent to control disposition of remains and a will.

Here are a few basic definitions of those documents, according to Covell:

• Medical power of attorney: This document allows a person to designate an individual who will have the authority to make medical decisions on their behalf if they are unconscious, mentally incompetent or otherwise unable to make such decisions.

• Declaration of Guardianship: This designates who gets control over the future guardianship of a couple’s children.

• Statutory durable power of attorney: This documents allows a person to give their partner permission to make business decisions in the event that they are incapable, including decisions on buying or selling property, paying bills, handling insurance and dealing with the IRS.

• Directive to physicians: This document allows a person with a terminal illness or other irreversible medical condition to detail their wishes on end-of-life care.

Appointment of agent to control disposition of remains: Legally, after death, a person’s body belongs to their legally recognized next of kin. This document allows a person to designate the person who they want to make funeral or memorial arrangements and decisions about the care of their body.

• Will: When a person dies without a will, all their property and possessions automatically go to their legal next of kin. With a will, an individual can designate their beneficiary, who is in charge of their estate, make special for provisions for surviving children or a survivor with special needs. A will also allows an individual to designate when specific people will receive specific assets.

Attorneys Christopher Farish and Julie Quaid say that it is imperative that same-sex couples prepare for the future in terms of their finances. In addition to having a will, it is also important for those in same-sex relationships to list their partner as a beneficiary in 401K, IRA and pension if an employer allows same-sex partners to be eligible for spousal benefits.

Make sure to check with company policies on these matters, in advance, the attorneys said.

Here are a few basic definitions of these documents, according to Farish and Quaid:

• 401K: This allows an employee to place money in an account for retirement. The employee can name the beneficiary with 401K plans, regardless of sex or marital status.

• IRA: An IRA, or individual retirement account, is money set aside that has already been taxed. These plans are designed for people who don’t have access to a 401K plan and so are less structured than a 401K. Whereas a 401K plan is provided by a person’s employer, an IRA is something indviduals own. An individual can designate their same-sex partner as the beneficiary of their IRA.

• Pensions: Pensions are regulated, and most of those are available only to a person’s legal surviving spouse. Pension plans, however, are specific to individual companies, and policies are not consistent from one employers to the next. Employers’ pension plan regulations may say specifically say “spouse,” and some may have policies that exclude a same-sex partner as a beneficiary because Texas has a constitutional amendment prohibiting legal recognition of same-sex marriage.

— Draconis von Trapp

—  John Wright

Letters • 08.20.10

Why do we fight for a word?

This week the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down its decision to halt the granting of same-sex marriage licenses in California until it considers the constitutionality of the state’s same-sex marriage ban.

So, here we go with round 2, or 200, or 2,000 — I have long ago stopped counting and stopped worrying about “The Battle.”

You see, I don’t believe the battle was fought correctly and therefore lost its direction.

Marriage. Really? Why are we so determined to have a word?

That’s all it really is, a word. I really thought the fight was for rights. Is getting “married” the only way to do that? Aren’t we worried about legal rights?

Seems to me we are. I mean after all, we are conducting our fights in the legal system.

How far along do you think we would be if perhaps instead of focusing on the word we focused on the prize — equal rights. Give them the word; give me the rights.

You can call the process established to grant the rights whatever — civil union, partnership agreement, legal arrangement or supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. I don’t see where that matters.

Also, just think of the possible additional troops we could recruit — straight couples that also desire the rights but don’t want the whole “married” thing.

The more the “marry-er,” as they say.

What does matter, at least in my opinion and world, is that I can make medical decisions for my partner when needed (or hell, just be able to see him in the hospital), that we can receive the retirement or social security benefits of the other just the same as any spouse, that we can buy property together and that property passes to either of us at the death of the other — you know, the important things, the rights.

I am all in for that fight, but not this word fight. Honestly I have to admit, I am not a fighter at heart so the thought of a tougher battle to achieve the goal is very unattractive to me.

So, hate me for being a man who is gay and doesn’t want to be in this battle.
It is your right.

David Dupuy
Dallas


Touched by TCC’s  national anthem

Last week I was driving out to DFW Airport very early in the morning, just before 7 a.m. I tuned my car radio to KEOM FM 88.5, which is the Mesquite Independent School District station, which mainly plays a format of 1970s and ’80s music.

Well they had just signed on for their broadcast day and played what I thought was one of the most beautiful renditions of the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” that I had ever heard.

It was so good, I wanted to know who performed it.

So I called the morning station DJ, thinking that it must have been one of the military academies or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Imagine my sheer delight to learn that it was Dallas’ own Turtle Creek Chorale.

It was truly magnificent. If you have never heard the TCC’s performance of the national anthem, make sure you make the effort to do so.

Bravo gentlemen!

Jay Narey
Dallas

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

NJ Supreme Court rejects gay marriage case

ANGELA DELLI SANTI  |  Associated Press Writer

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey’s Supreme Court won’t consider whether the state’s civil union law provides equal rights to gay couples before the case is heard in a lower court.

The court announced Monday, July 26 it cannot consider the merits of the claim by six same-sex couples that New Jersey’s civil union law is unconstitutional until there is a trial record.

Gay couples unsuccessfully sued New Jersey four years ago for the right to marry. They claim that by creating civil unions, the state has not fulfilled a court order to treat them the same as heterosexual couples seeking to marry.

The justices were split 3-3, one vote shy of the four needed for a motion to be granted.

Justice Virginia Long, who wrote the dissenting opinion, agreed there is an insufficient record for debating the merits of the claim, but she said hearing oral arguments would have helped guide the justices on how best to go about creating a judicial record.

Steven Goldstein, who leads the state’s largest gay rights group, Garden State Equality, said the decision perpetuates the unequal legal status of same-sex couples and their children.

“Same-sex couples will continue to be denied the consistent right to visit one another in the hospital, to make medical decisions for one another, and to receive equal health benefits from employers, all because of the deprivation of the equality and dignity that uniquely comes with the word marriage,” he said in a statement.

—  John Wright