Exhibiting Honesty and Integrity While Searching for Equality
How Progressive Are You?
It's no surprise that the GLBT community faces discrimination. Sometimes it is blatant and obvious, while at others it is more subdued and restrained. We feel the stares. We hear the backhanded commentary. We hear the laughter, and sometimes we even feel the sting of rejection or even physical violence. While I thought I had become accustomed to this type of behavior, at times it surprises even me. This situation caught me completely off-guard, and I was neither prepared nor aware of what the consequences could be.
What Do You Think?
Was the Company Right in Denying a Marriage Discount?
The Back Story:
My wife and I got married twice in two weeks back in September. We had a legal ceremony in New Hampshire (where gay marriage is legally recognized) and a family ceremony/celebration in Maine. Now Maine has recognized same-sex marriage and affirmed it, but at the time it was still on the ballot and undecided. After returning to our home state of Florida, we fully anticipated that things would become a bit more complicated. While our county and city recognize civil unions, they do not accept marriages and we had both heard the horror stories of other same-sex couples who had encountered nightmares while navigating every-day occurrences like name-changes and recognition.
I was lucky. My wife, although she is clearly the more feminine one in our relationship, has a gender-neutral name. When I applied for my name change at the social security office and the DMV, I was met with no resistance whatsoever. At the time, I also worked for a company who endorsed same-sex benefits and equality recognition of same-sex partners. My new employer has even more benefits for same-sex couples and enforces a very strict inclusion and non-discrimination policy.
Among the tasks on my list after my legal name change had taken place was calling my car insurance company, Progressive. I had been with Progressive for over 4 years, and wasn't looking to get any kind of discount or recognition - which is why I was so totally surprised when they gave me one anyway.
The woman that assisted me that day on the phone was extremely pleasant. I told her about my name change and while she was completing the paperwork, she asked me why I had changed my name, so I told her I had gotten married. She offered the typical congratulatory remarks, and mentioned that a married status qualified for a discount. I told her up front that I was married to a same-sex partner, so I didn't believe that I was qualified. She insisted that their company did not discriminate, and that since we were legally married and they were a national company that the same rules that applied to everyone else would apply for me as well. I gave her my wife's information, and she put the discount through. All was fine until it came time to renew this month.
My wife doesn't drive. She never has. She doesn't even have a driver's license (much to my chagrin). Although I had explained this to several representatives in the preceding months, this time my renewal offer included a letter of exclusion to formally exclude her from my insurance policy. I called to double-check and received the surprise of my life. While the customer service representative that I talked to was perfectly polite and professional, she informed me that, because my marriage is not recognized in the state that I reside in, the married discount would no longer apply, and my premium would be increasing as a result.
This news would not have surprised me had it been constant from the very beginning. The first representative that I spoke to in September assured me that their company offered the discount regardless of gender and that they prided themselves on being non-discriminatory. I didn't give it a second thought because many nation-wide companies (like both of my employers) carried similar policies in regards to their same-sex employees. If I had never had the discount in the first place, it wouldn't have been that big of a deal and I would have considered it par for the course. Because I had the discount at one time and then it was suddenly taken away, it hit me like a kick in the teeth - and I never saw it coming.
Was the Decision to Tell the Truth the Correct Decision?
A Question of Ethics:
Had I not explicitly gone out of my way to mention that my marriage was a homosexual one, I would still have my discount and no one would be the wiser. My marriage certificate does not list our genders on it, and my wife's name is completely ambiguous. The problem I am faced with now is that I am being punished for my honesty, and a very real financial benefit was taken away - because I told the truth about it.
I consider myself to be a moral and ethical person. Telling the truth is always preferable to telling a lie, and I despise lying. In this case, however, a lie would have been more beneficial. Had I not mentioned the nature of my relationship with my spouse and played the pronoun game, I would still be enjoying a significant financial benefit that would have been an asset to our household and decreased our monthly financial responsibility. Telling the truth in this case cost me. Do I regret it? In hindsight the answer will most likely be no, but to be honest, right now it stings.
The bottom line is that a legal marriage is a legal marriage and it should be regarded as such regardless of what kind of marriage it is. Heterosexual couples do not have to be legally married in each of the 50 states in order for their marriages to be recognized in that state. Immigrants do not have to be remarried in order to have their relationships considered legal when they come to this country. So why same-sex marriages like mine should only be considered valid in the 11 states in which they are presently legal? I find it absurd when I realize that it is legal in more states to marry your first cousin than it is for me to be married to my wife - and the dichotomy is astounding. I don't regret my decision to be honest, and I won't have a lie weighing on my conscience. But the fact that the difference between a lie and the truth rests on real financial gain and equality is preposterous. It's going to change. it's on its way towards changing - and it simply can't happen quickly enough.