Same-sex marriage debate has economic impact

Marie and CJ Siroky have been together 22 years.

The fight over same-sex marriage is also a fight about money and the economic benefits that married couples have.

Some economists estimate that same-sex couples denied marriage benefits in the U.S. will rack up $41,000-$467,000 in additional expenses over their lifetime, compared to heterosexual couples.

One same sex couple tells Eyewitness News they believe that is hardly equality.

As the Supreme Court justices listen to arguments on whether Proposition 8 should stand or fall in California, Marie and CJ Siroky wait to see what effect, if any, it will have on their lives in Indiana.

The couple has been together 22 years. Four years ago, they made the decision to make it official.

"So we ended out 18-year engagement by eloping to Iowa," said Marie.

In the state of Iowa, Marie and CJ are legally married. But in Indiana, that marriage is not legally recognized. The couple has domestic partner benefits, but that also comes with an additional cost.

"We have to pay taxes on those. Her benefits are my income," CJ said.

Even if Indiana joined the nine states that currently allow same-sex marriage, the Sirokys would still be denied the more than 1,000 Federal benefits attached to marriage.

"As a practical matter, it's too difficult when states tell validly-married couples that the Federal government doesn't recognize, doesn't allow them to file joint tax returns, taxes, inheritance, etcetera," said IU Law Professor Jennifer Drobac.

Drobac says barring a sweeping decision from the justices stating marriage is a fundamental right, which she says is unlikely, neither case will have little to no effect for couples in Indiana. But she says everyone should pay attention to what's going on.

"From a historical perspective, they should watch it very closely. This is going to change the law in some states, at least," Drobac said.

The Sirokys are holding out hope that history won't stop there.

"It would be nice for the Federal benefits for Social Security, survivor benefits, relational benefits, pension benefits, insurance, all those things after 22 years we can't have," Marie said.

Indiana is leading the charge among states backing Proposition 8 in California. Attorney General Greg Zoeller is the primary author of briefs submitted by 20 additional Attorneys General defending the right to ban same sex marriages.