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All the Right Moves

SHOULD YOU GET MARRIED?

If you’re registered as domestic or civil union partners, or in a same-sex partnership with no formalized status:

  • You are not eligible for many of the vast majority of federal protections and benefits given married couples.

  • If you count on your partner’s employee health plan, such programs may not last. This has nothing to do with who is running the government, however. With marriage equality, many employers began shifting away from covering unmarried same-sex couples “Companies will phase out domestic partnership policies in favor of marriage—even without Trump,” says Camilla Taylor, Lambda Legal Senior Counsel.

Reasons not to get married include:

  • Concerns about how household income would be determined if either or both members of a couple receive public assistance.

  • Being able to adopt from a country that doesn’t approve adoptions by same-sex spouses.

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Know the laws in your state that protect LGBT people and people living with HIV.
6 things LGBT and HIV positive people
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OUR MOVEMENT has made tremendous progress in recent years. But since election night, many in our community have had grave concerns about what might happen to our rights. “The Constitution has not changed,” says Legal Director Jon Davidson, “and it prohibits the government from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity.” State and local laws and court rulings should also continue to protect the rights of people who are LGBT or living with HIV.

If there are any challenges, Lambda Legal is prepared to go to the mat for you.

This includes challenges to marriage equality. Your spouse will not stop being your spouse overnight. The new government could definitely make life harder for LGBT people and their families. But the Supreme Court is unlikely to reconsider its two landmark decisions affirming the right of same-sex couples to marry—even if the balance of the Court shifts with one or more appointments from the new administration.

If you encounter discrimination, call Lambda Legal. In the meantime, we recommend you consider taking these six steps.

Get your life-planning documents in order.

If  you’re hospitalized or be- come unable to make your own medical decisions, make sure hospital staff and other professionals respect your partner, especially if you want that person to make decisions on your behalf. A medical power of attorney or health care proxy and a living will are legally enforceable documents setting out your wishes about medical care and decision-making (consult your attorney). No change in federal policy can undermine these documents, or violate your rights to choose your family and control your body. Likewise, the LGBT-friendly hospital visitation policy put in place by the Obama administration should remain in place because it is consistent with state laws.

Update your IDs,

including your driver’s license and passport, if you’re transgender and your documents don’t reflect who you are. Changing your gender on a driver’s license in some states is very simple, involving a standardized form and requiring no legal or medical approval and/or proof of surgery. In other states, the process is more elaborate and court orders may be involved (this means court fees.) Changing your gender on your passport under current regulations does not require surgery but does require certification by a doctor that you have had (or are undergoing) “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition” as well as application costs of $110-$135.

Make sure your health insurance coverage is in order, especially if you have HIV.

Whatever happens to the U.S. health care system under the new administration, “HIV positive people who have insurance prior to the changes will be in a better place than those who do not,” says Scott Schoettes, director of Lambda Legal’s HIV Project. While Affordable Care Act insurance plans required enrollment by January 31, you can still sign up after “qualifying life events” such as marriage or the loss of job-based insurance. Those eligible for Medicaid can enroll any time of year. Schoettes warns that government funding of some HIV-related services is at risk and that plan benefits may change over time. But he says you are not likely to lose health insurance coverage simply for being HIV positive.


 

The Constitution has not changed and it prohibits the government from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
—  Jon Davidson, Legal Director

Consider a stepparent, second-parent or joint adoption

if you’re a samesex couple raising children, married or not, and if such adoptions are available in your state. A court adoption judgment provides important security, even if both parents are already on each child’s birth certificate. This is because court judgments in one state must be respected by all the other states as well as by the federal government. If you’re not married and your state doesn’t permit adoption judgments for unmarried parents, we suggest you seek what’s called a parentage order. Other suggestions include making sure that each child’s Social Security record lists both parents, and obtaining a passport for each child that also lists both.

Reach out to school authorities

if you have an LGBT child in school and are worried about your child being harassed or prevented from using the restroom. “Work with your local school boards to make sure they have adequate protection from bullying,” advises Davidson.

Stay enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

(DACA) pro- gram if you’re an immigrant worried about the new administration’s deportation threats.

If you already have DACA, there  is less risk in submitting a renewal application because authorities already have the information you previously submitted.

If you do not currently have DACA and are considering it for the first time, you should not do so at this time. Speak with an immigration attorney if you are considering DACA.

If you are undocumented, avoid negative interactions with law enforcement, carry a know-your-rights card, know that you have the right to remain silent until you speak to an attorney, do not open the door for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unless they have a warrant signed by a judge, and create a safety plan.

If you are eligible for a green card or to become a citizen, apply as soon as you can.