Jan 19, 2014

[Technicolor Musings] Should LGBT Couples Bother Buying Property?

Rainbow over the house in the sugar cane fields by B.navez via Wikimedia Commons
I'm one of those people who dream of owning property. And I'm not talking about some condominium - that feels like a lie. I'm talking about an actual house standing on a plot of land - even if it's just a townhouse or something like that. I guess I'm a little old-fashioned that way.

A friend had once argued that it's a more practical to just rent a home versus buying one for various reasons. But eventually, the argument sort of boiled down to the fact that home ownership for LGBTs may not be the most practical thing, especially since it's not like we can get married and such.

My recent house-hunting efforts sort of revived this particular memory. And thus today's blog post.

I've had many people argue against my "mad" notion of wanting to buy a house. And it gets weird when some of the arguments inevitably involve my being gay and/or being in an LGBT relationship. You end up getting questions like "whose name will be on the deed?" or "why bother when no one will inherit the propery when you die?" and I end up feeling slighted and offended regardless of how well-intentioned they are.

But to be fair, that last one is a bit of an interesting question to ponder. A lot of people think of home ownership as a potential legacy - something that you'll pass on to your children or something like that. But when it's not like natural children are all that feasible and the current legal environment may not may inheritance automatic, things do get rather complicated. In an LGBT relationship, there's a very big chance that any kids that you have - whether through a surrogate or adoption - won't necessarily share the last name of both members of the couple. The kid may have one of your names, but not often both. Unless the other goes through a legal name change on his own just to complete a matched set.

Even just one partner dying complicates things. Can the family of the deceased argue for inheritance rights for half of the property in the deceased's name? This can be addressed in a relatively easy manner with a clear legal will, but not everyone puts wills together. Plus there's the other point about how why we don't have the same rights as married couples do - the ones related to conjugal property and how the inheritance laws come into play once more.

There are of course those who point out that LGBT relationships don't last all that long and one should be careful about the risks.When the two of you manage to get both of your names on the property, you'll probably have to buy the other guy out should you two separate - or just sell the property entirely in order to equally divide the money. It's a rather negative and pessimistic view, but one that also reminds us of the lack of remedies for when LGBT couples break-up. We can't get married, and thus we also can't get divorced.

There are always going to be arguments against home ownership, which are really just symptoms of the larger issue of the lack of LGBT rights. The current state of inequality creates so many legal complications for even the simplest things, that it does become quite the hefty argument for practicality to not even bother.

But we're going to be able to move forward if we give in to the naysayers. Just because things are difficult doesn't mean they aren't worth venturing. Sure, it'll cost an LGBT couple a heck of a lot more in terms of legal fees to recreate the same types of legal protections that the rest of the work gets automatically by virtue of birth and citizenship, but we can make it work.

After all, having both your names on a deed actually represents one of the few legal documents in the Philippines that you can actually share with your partner. And that makes owning a home together even more special that it is for straight couples.

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