As a gay couple, our life insurance policy protects us even if the courts take away our right to be married

As a gay couple, our life insurance policy protects us even if the courts take away our right to be married

jacy topps and wife

Courtesy Jacy Topps

The author and her wife.


Making arrangements to support your family in the event of your death can be emotionally challenging - not many people are in a hurry to think about their mortality. I certainly wasn't in my late 30s.

However, as a gay person living in this country, making those arrangements is critical - it's a recognition of the precarious nature of LGBTQ equality and how the law impacts your assets and financial legacy.

That's why, at age 38 (my wife and I are the same age), we each purchased a $100,000 term life insurance policy for $35 a month. It was a necessary step for us as a same-sex couple.

The Supreme Court decision that changed our life

Before the 2016 election, the trend toward equality for LGBTQ Americans was undeniable. The right for gays to serve openly in the military was won. Hate crimes laws were federally expanded to include LGBTQ people. And in a landmark ruling in 2015, the US Supreme Court granted same-sex couples the right to marry.


After the ruling, my wife and I married, left New York, and moved back to Georgia - one of the states that didn't allow gay couples to marry before the Supreme Court decision.

Despite moving to a state that had once explicitly banned gay marriages, we felt safe. Support for gay marriage was at an all-time high, and the then-governor of Georgia, Nathan Deal, considered the Supreme Court's decision settled law.

Shifting tides for LGBTQ Americans

Unfortunately, after the 2016 election, the political climate shifted away from LGBTQ equality.

The new president's administration immediately started attacking LGBTQ Americans by imposing a ban on transgender service members and implementing a rule allowing doctors to opt out of providing healthcare services based on their so-called religious beliefs, including a "religious exemption" to deny life-saving health care for LGBTQ Americans.

And, just recently, at the Supreme Court, the administration argued Tittle VII doesn't include sexual orientation, essentially allowing workplace discrimination against LGBTQ workers.


It started to look like all of the progress that had been made towards equality for the community could ultimately be reversed.

To make matters worse, Georgia elected a new governor who publicly opposes marriage equality. My partner and I were scared - and rightfully so.

The LGBTQ community has been subjected to discriminatory public policy for decades, which has had a profound impact on our livelihoods, finances, and families.

There are over a thousand financial and legal benefits a marriage license grants a couple, including the inheritance of your spouse's assets, unless otherwise outlined in a living will. However, married gay couples can't rely solely on their marital status for financial protection.

While gays and lesbians have the right to marry in every state in our country, many of us still live in fear that our families and marriages could be dismantled.


As the make-up of the Supreme Court shifts, it's entirely possible that the landmark decision granting same-sex marriages will be challenged, in which case my marriage license could be relegated to a second-class status, or worse.

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So, knowing all this, my wife and I decided to invest in a life insurance policy. We knew we could someday need the extra protection in the event of an emergency or death.

What could happen to use if marriage equality is overturned

Overturning marriage equality or blocking specific benefits gay couples can access has serious implications for a community that has been historically vulnerable to discrimination.

For example, neither my partner nor I would be entitled to receive Social Security survivor's benefits or corporate pensions - as our straight married counterparts would.


That's where life insurance comes into play: It gives us an added layer of protection regardless of the legal recognition of our marriage under state or federal law in the future.

Although many people list their spouse as their primary life insurance beneficiary, it's not mandatory to be legally married to receive benefits from most policies.

However, the primary beneficiary of an insurance policy must have an "insurable interest." In other words, would they suffer a great financial loss in the event of your death? As a couple who shares a life together, including the entanglement of our finances, we meet our policy's "insurable interest" clause, regardless of the legal status of our relationship.

Our policy also includes long-term disability coverage in case of chronic illness or a need for long-term care for disabilities, which is particularly important given the reversal and rollback of healthcare initiatives that protect LGBTQ people.

While every couple's financial situation may be different, we're confident our life insurance plan, along with other financial precautions, will help provide an equal opportunity for financial security for our family in the event of death.


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