Now that LGTB community has earned the right to marry openly, we, as people with disabilities, need the right to OPENLY marry AND keep our government benefits. People with disabilities, in order to keep their much needed SSI and Waiver (in-home care) services provided by government, are forced either never to marry, or secretly marry, and them pretend to cohabitate as “friends”, or mask their spouse as a “live-in attendant”. It’s 2015 – it takes 2 incomes to run a household of 2. If it’s ok to declare those in our household as “roommates” or “live-in attendants” and keep our benefits, then why shouldn’t we be able to marry someone and keep our benefits too?! It’s inconsistent for the government to say; “you can live together, and even share a bed, and we’ll still let you have your benefits – no matter the income of that person who’s posing as a “live-in attendant”, but if you get married, or declare your private religious marriage publicly, we will then put your incomes together and decide your benefits accordingly”.
Even if one openly marries another disabled person who is also receiving SSI ($700 per month), the government will give you one check and drop it by a third. Instead of two checks totaling $1,400 per month, the married couple gets one check totaling $1,100 per month. However, if they just live together – while sleeping together etc. they will receive individual checks of $700. Now if that’s not a blatant declaration of how the government feels about people with disabilities getting married – I don’t know what is? In this situation where both receive SSI and were roommates, nothing has changed except a license saying they are now married.
This devalues our love and relationship – relegating the care and financial responsibility of us to our spouse. Not too many couples can afford to do this, and if the disability is significant, how is the non-disabled spouse supposed to work to bring in the total household income, take care of the disabled person’s physical needs, clean house, cook or whatever the person is unable to do, due to their disability, without some assistance? Maybe having SSI and a Waiver makes the person with the disability feel not dependent upon their spouse for everything! Not to mention many times people with disabilities and their significant others are forced to compromise their religious beliefs about marriage and sex because the alternative of living without some government supports is not feasible. Many religious denominations require the couple to also have a marriage license to marry in the church (whatever happen to the notion of “separation of Church and State”). This causes a quandary of moral and ethical decisions which a couple who’s in love should never have to quarrel with internally. Some things they grapple with morally might be; Should we just cohabitate and sacrifice our values that sex belongs in the sacrament of marriage? Should we find a church that will secretly marry us in the eyes of God and not require a government marriage license? If we hide our religious marriage from the government we’re lying, and again, we are forced to compromise our values and integrity to get the benefits we would be entitled to if we did nothing different, other than, not have a marriage license, and/or publicly declare the true nature of the relationship.
What hurts more is when others try to placate your moral convictions with; “God will understand”! Whether God will understand or not, is not the point, by saying God understands allows this inconsistent and unjust practice to continue thereby keeping people with disabilities from publicly declaring true marital status and discouraging non-disabled people into entering a public display of marriage with a disabled person who needs government benefits for care – rendering the relationship to that of concubine. On top of it all, it’s just unacceptable to have to hide and pretend what you really are to one another just in order to survive, or at least not struggle, in hopes of avoiding health issues due to the hardship the government would place on you, if you were to marry. My husband and I married and he has endured many health issues due to lack of Waiver services (in-home care) I would have gotten if we just lived together.
The LGBT community fought and won their right – now people with disabilities have to fight to openly declare their marriage without suffering irreparable harm that the loss of benefits can bring! In having to hide our the true nature of our relationship, we can’t make medical decisions for our significant other, or visit them in an intensive care unit because we’re not a legally recognized spouse, or a family member! Right now we have to sit and watch someone else make those decisions about the one we hold in our hearts on a daily basis, hoping their biological family members will graciously remember, or are willing, to consult us, because legally we have no standing in one another’s lives!