Same-sex couples see extra benefits to marriage

GREEN BAY – Jenn and Adriene Schiavo of Green Bay were married early Monday morning. They say it wasn’t to prove their love for one another.

“Our families already know that, our children already know that,” said Jenn Schiavo. “We don’t need the government to recognize that part of our relationship, but we need it in order to access the benefits they offer.”

Because they are married, Adriene will now be able to receive Jenn’s spousal benefits for being a veteran. There’s also new benefits that impact their two children.

“If we’re ever on vacation and we’re with the girls and something happens to me, she can still take care of the girls,” said Jenn Schiavo.

Starting in 2009, same-sex couples could receive some rights through domestic partnerships. According to Fair Wisconsin, domestic partnerships provided couples with 43 protections, compared to more than 200 for married couples.

“There’s so many benefits that are going to be afforded to same sex couples that they couldn’t have before,” said attorney Peggy Miller.

Some of the big ones include being able to jointly file taxes, child custody protections, and the right to inheritances without a will.

“I think people will still marry for love and commitment and I’m not sure they think as much about the legal aspects, the contractual aspects of marriage, but as lawyers we have to think about those things,” said attorney Avram Berk.

Opponents of same-sex marriage say the benefits of being married have never been a big issue for them.

“To us, the benefits are not part of the definition of marriage,” said Julaine Appling, the president of Wisconsin Family Action. “ They are legal incidents that are attributed to married people because government wants to incentivize men and women to marry and to stay married, especially for the sake of children.”

The Schiavos’ say the benefits were incentive enough for them.

“It was the major push for us, the major decision maker,” said Jenn Schiavo.

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