By Dave Hughes, RetireFabulously.com
October 17, 2014 was a very special day – one I have been anticipating for years. At times, it seemed like it might never arrive. Even now, the full effect is still sinking in.
As of October 17, my husband Jeff and I are fully legally married in Arizona, the state we call home.
We held a ceremonial wedding for family and friends in Mesa, Arizona, on August 13, 2005. Five days later, we got legally married in Vancouver, British Columbia. At the time, Massachusetts was the only state in the U.S. in which same-sex couples had the right to marry.
Back then, we were considering moving to Canada, so we traveled to Vancouver not only to get married but also to evaluate the city out as a potential place to live.
Back in 2005, things weren’t looking good in the U.S. The previous year, many states passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. George Bush won re-election, and it looked like the economy and the terrorist threat would continue to get worse. Plus, we liked the idea of living in a place where we would be legally married. Leaving the U.S. was an idea that had merit.
Vancouver is a wonderful city and we would probably have been very happy there. But it’s expensive, the job market wasn’t so great at the time, and we would miss the warm, dry climate we enjoy so much in Arizona. We decided not to move.
Last year (in June, 2013) the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decisions in favor of equal marriage rights in two landmark cases: the California Prop 8 case and the Windsor case which found Part 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional. That meant the U.S. Government considered us married, but Arizona did not.
Now, our Canadian marriage license is legally recognized in Arizona!
Why does this merit an article on lgbtSr.org, other than to share a bit of good news in my personal life?
For one thing, it significantly expands the choices and changes the equation when it comes to places I can recommend as “Fabulous Places to Retire” for same-sex couples.
Long-time readers of this blog will recall that I have featured several foreign countries as places to consider for retirement destinations, but I have yet to feature any U.S. locations. I have devoted a lot of my research over the past few months to identifying viable U.S. choices. It’s been difficult to develop a good list of destinations that provide an affordable cost of living, enjoyable climate, and good overall quality of life while at the same time offering marriage equality. Now, more possibilities are opening up.
Legal marriage is important to couples of every age, but many benefits come into play as couples grow older that don’t seem as significant during their younger years. Inheritance rights, health care coverage and decision-making, and co-housing rights in nursing homes are just a few considerations.
Perhaps the most important consideration is Social Security. Prior to last year’s DOMA ruling, same-sex couples were shut out from receiving survivor benefits, even in equal-marriage states.
Since the fall of DOMA Part 3, same-sex couples are considered married for Social Security purposes only if they reside in states in which they are legally married.
In other words, when a couple reaches the point where they are ready to file for benefits, there’s a strong incentive to live in a marriage equality state.
If this change had not come to Arizona, we would have needed to move in order to file for Social Security benefits as a married couple.
As of today, same-sex couples can marry in 32 states and the District of Columbia. Now it looks like the day when our marriages will be recognized in all fifty states is on the horizon.
But it will take many more years to change hearts and minds. Many potential retirement destinations will remain unwelcoming of LGBT seniors for years to come. Other factors, such as the political environment, presence or absence of LGBT employment laws, and the relative point in time at which a state became an equality state still indicate where it’s easier for LGBT people to live comfortably.
For straight readers, I realize that marriage equality many not be a significant factor when deciding upon a retirement destination. Hopefully, this article has increased your understanding of some of the issues your LGBT friends face. Besides, you might find that places that are more welcoming of LGBT people are also more welcoming of diverse people of all sorts, and these would be more progressive and desirable places to live.
I’m still working on that list of recommended U.S. retirement destinations.
You can help by responding to this very brief survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WP2TCK2
© 2014 Dave Hughes
Dave Hughes created RetireFabulously.com to help you envision, plan for and ultimately enjoy the best retirement possible. Most articles focus on the non-financial, “lifestyle” aspects of retirement, such as successfully transitioning from work to leisure, choosing where to live, identifying the things that will make retirement happy and fulfilling, and more. Dave is available for speaking engagements and workshops, and also offers training and coaching on excellent presentation skills. Dave lives in Chandler, AZ with his husband, Jeff, and Missy, the world’s smartest and cutest Yorkie-poo.