Palm Springs meeting aims to answer questions on DOMA and Prop 8

PALM SPRINGS, Cali. -      By the time the panel began speaking, the conference room at the Mizell Senior Center in Palm Springs, was standing room only. Packed full of people looking for answers.

     For the future of LGBT rights, marriage equality is just the beginning. What many people want to know and what this panel tried to answer is, what happens when those couples are in another state? Will their marriage be recognized, will they get the same benefits, what about immigration rights, and does it make sense for them to get married financially and emotionally.

     Thom Bettinger has been with his partner for 33 years, but the legality of their marriage in the U.S. presents new legal hurdles. He tells us, "I was able to get him on my health and dental benefits, which just alone will save us several thousand dollars a year. So there's other kinds of things of course that I don't know like income tax and I hope to hear some of those kinds of things tonight or at least get resources to go to later that we can find out what other kinds of things will benefit us as well as our brothers and sisters."

    Andy Linsky is on the Human Rights Campaign Board of Directors, just one of four panel members brought in for their expertise. "Most of the federal benefits since California is a marriage state would flow to our residents but there's still a lot of questions out there and a lot of work to be done in employment, non-discrimination, in adoption, immigration and many other topics."

     One major topic in the panel, recognition of rights in other states.

     Janet Malachowsky is President of the Board of the Desert Business Association. She moderated the panel, telling us ,"People don't always stay in one location so people might have questions about, if I'm married in one location and we move to another state, how is that going to be recognized."

     While some federal agencies defer to the state of residence to decide if benefits and rights will be recognized, some defer to the state of marriage, so results will be mixed. However the panel did offer advice for the time being.

     Geoff Cors is a Senior Legislative and Policy Strategist at the National Center for Lesbian Rights. He told everyone, "When you travel, you have to be a little more prepared than a heterosexual married couple is when they go. If you're legally married or in a registered domestic partnership, having documents to prove it could come in handy if something happens."

     One important point the panel made is, due to the ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act, lawfully married same sex couples will be recognized for family immigration purposes regardless of where they live.

    Also addressed was the emotional impact of marriage becoming legal and whether LGBT couples should get married right away.

     Jill Gover is the Director of Counseling at LBGT Community Center of the Desert. She discussed a new marital study with the group, but stresses the importance of not rushing into marriage just because it's legal. "There's a real emotional pull to want to do that because this is something that's been denied for so long, and it's been associated with gay rights, with equality, with freedom, civil rights, and it will be very tempting to want to impulsively jump into something that they've wanted for a long time and may want to do just because they can, and may not actually be a good idea."

     The panel also covered active legislation and current court cases. Discussing the outlook for two bills in the state that aim to challenge to Supreme Courts ruling on Proposition 8. The panel's Geoff Cors told the crowd that both looked doomed to fail, good news for LGBT supporters. 

     They hope to cover important tax information during their next session but, for now, they say the future for expanding LGBT rights looks promising. 

     Geoff Cors tells the crowd in relation to the Supreme Courts ruling, "While a lot of us were expecting the decision, the language was much stronger than a lot of people anticipated. With the court issuing language that really paves the way for all the further work to overturn marriage, nationwide."

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