The Real Issue in Same Sex Marriages
After 15 years of practicing U.S. Immigration law, I received my first transgender relationship case. A long term relationship between an American man and a Thai transgender. The United States Supreme Court recently declared that laws preventing same sex marriages were unconstitutional.
This was not well received by large portions of the United States where there is a deeply ingrained religious and cultural view that marriage is a union between a man and woman. I understand that view. I am in long term committed relationship with my wife and we have a child together. I also have a conservative and traditional mindset.
However as an attorney, I have considered the issue of same sex marriages as an equal rights issue. In most established societies including Thailand, marriage is not a religious ceremony but a legal designation. Married couples are conferred special rights and duties under the law that is not provided to single individuals. In most countries, spouses have special property rights including government benefits, tax benefits, and employment benefits. In my area of the law, marriages confirm special immigration and visa rights. In addition, there are special rights in cases of the death of a spouse, a divorce, and custodial rights.
However, the United States Supreme Court decided the issue as protecting the institution of marriage. The majority stated that “marriage is the keystone of the Nation’s social order” and there is no difference in a marriage between a same sex and opposite sex couple.” The court believes that families are the foundations of a strong society and deserved to be protected. The special benefits provided to married couples and families is proof that society values families. Since same sex couples can also have families, laws that prevent same sex couples from marrying creates unnecessary instability and is not justifiable.
This returns me to my clients. My clients have been together for over a decade. If you did not see their identification cards, you would have believed that they were a traditional heterosexual couple. My wife told me that my transgender client is “very beautiful.” They have traveled all over the world together but the American’s work situation forces him to work and live in the United States. And my Thai client has been denied a travel visa to the United States because she has an American boyfriend. The U.S. Embassy believes that she will stay in the United States. And like most Asian countries, Thailand does not recognized same sex marriages.
In this backdrop, I have come to understand that same sex marriage is not a simple matter of equal rights. It is about the love between two people. I understand there is a divergence of opinion for the definition of marriage. As an attorney, I see marriage is a legal designation and believe that there should not be discrimination under the law. However my recent experience with this issue shows that I need to expand my view of the issue. Same sex marriage is about two people who love each other and have chosen to live together as a married couple. As a person who deeply loves his wife, I would be heartbroken if the law prevented us from being together.
By Robert R. Virasin
Mr. Robert R. Virasin serves as managing director of Virasin and Partners. He is a licensed U.S. attorney and a graduate of the University of California Los Angeles, University of Houston Law School, and Chulalongkorn University. He can be reached via email [email protected]. or www.virasin.com