TALKING TO NEIGHBORS: A New Jersey Couple Wants to Marry

Guest Blogger: Richard Ledesma

So here it is Freedom to Marry Week…neighbor.

We are Richard and Jeffrey, two men in a loving committed relationship since September 6, 2002. We have two dogs, a nice apartment in New Jersey, a car with monthly insurance payments. We have electric, gas, cable, and cell phone bills. We shop at our local supermarket and visit the same doctor for the past three years. We recycle, clean our sidewalk, and respect our environment. We maintain diverse full time jobs and pay our taxes. We have suffered the death of both of our mothers and one of our fathers in the past couple of years.

We are just like you and your spouse except for one thing. Richard and Jeffrey cannot marry. We are not entitled to bereavement leave from work if our partner dies. We are not entitled to draw the Social Security of the deceased partner, or to automatically inherit a shared home, assets, or personal items in the absence of a will. We are not covered by laws and policies that permit people to take medical leave to care for a sick spouse or for the kids. We are not considered next of kin for the purposes of hospital visitation and emergency medical decisions. We cannot file joint tax returns and are excluded from tax benefits and claims specific to marriage. In addition, we are denied the right to transfer property to one another and pool the family's resources without adverse tax consequences. Richard and Jeffrey are not entitled, covered, or considered on alot of things that you are…

What we do have are neighbors that only see Richard and Jeffrey, two men in a loving committed relationship.

Richard and Jeffrey are your neighbors but cannot marry. Why, I thought we were just like you.

***Richard Ledesma is the Office Manager at Freedom To Marry. Jeffrey Thomas-Ledesma is a Hyperbaric and Wound Care Technician at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. They live in New Jersey and are originally from Miami, FL and Ft. Payne, AL respectively.