Friday, March 15, 2013

Relationship inequalities not just for Gay Couples in Corporate America

Consider the following scenario in Corporate America:  It is late October and Jessica, who lives with her
boyfriend Jack of 5 years, has burned through most of her allotted vacation and sick leave for the year. She and Jack are engaged and planning a wedding for next year. Unexpectedly, Jack's mom, who lives across the country, dies in a horrible car accident.

Firm Policy states that only immediate relatives of blood or marriage qualify for paid bereavement leave and unpaid time off at the discretion of your supervisor/manager.

Now take Jason, who just returned from his honeymoon with Natasha, the mail-order Russian bride he met this summer. Her dad also died (same car accident?) Because it is a close relation by marriage, he is entitled to take the time off with pay.

No one is disputing Jason and Natasha's love for one another or saying that their marriage won't last the test of time. But even the most doe-eyed romantic has to agree that Jessica and Jack have more of an integrated relationship than Jason and Natasha. Is it fair that a piece of paper prevents her from getting time off for a funeral while a technicality allows Jason that full benefit?

What if said manager/supervisor feels that living together before marriage is wrong and decides not to let Jessica have the time off?

I'm sympathetic and supportive of gay marriage and the issues. But until just before I got married, I couldn't really say that I ever truly felt their pain.  It wasn't until the timeframe between getting engaged and actually getting married, that I kinda got a taste of what same-sex couples go through. 

Even though I'd been with Nightingale for almost two years and were getting married, we had no legal rights or shared benefits as a couple.  We were sort of in limbo.

If one of my married coworkers needs to leave early to pick up his son from soccer practice, that's understood and acceptable. But since I'm not married yet, I cannot use the "need to hang out with Sig Other" excuse.

By no means am I comparing my situation to the plight of gays and lesbians. I'm just saying I have a new appreciation for gay couples who have been together for years and do not have the same rights as married hetero couples.

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