Meet Arizona Families: Gerardo Ramirez and Paul Hopkins

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Gerardo and Paul have been together since 1995, when they met on AOL during the early days of Internet matchmaking. They met while they were both living in New Jersey but have been together in Phoenix since 1996. They married in the state of New York two years ago.

“For years, I had absolutely no interest in marriage,” Gerardo said. “To me it was just enough to be together in a shared commitment, to honor each other, and for that you do not need a signed piece of paper.”

Gerardo and Paul did not consider marriage because they just assumed it would never be available to them. Then, as they aged and their lives became more intertwined, they started to realize that they wanted, and needed, the protections and benefits the government offers married couples.

“We learned about marriage over time, the hard and expensive way, as we started to worry about the future as a couple,” Gerardo said.

They had to pay for the drafting of legal documents to ensure that they could make medical decisions for one another, and to protect their assets. They’re still concerned about how their pensions and Social Security benefits will be distributed should either of them pass away.

“When you are a married couple, all of these hoops are unnecessary since these protections occur automatically as part of a civil marriage,” Paul said.

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When Gerardo and Paul recently formed a company together they realized the significant business benefits a married couple receives.

“Marriage’s protections and benefits extend far beyond the four walls of our home,” Paul said.

For instance, when transferring money to one another for business purposes, in order to avoid major gift tax penalties, an unmarried couple has to set up the transfers as loans and create a paper trail of the money being repaid.

“It’s unfair,” Gerardo said. “Spouses can transfer money back and forth for any purpose, with no questions asked. We had to go through all of this extra work and expense before our marriage was recognized at the federal level. We were forced to waste time we could have put into our business, just because we are both men.”

“These are just some of the discriminatory situations that we have encountered so far in our 17 years of being together,” Paul said. “I am sure there are many other unnecessary hurdles that we will face until there is freedom to marry in Arizona, since out marriage is not recognized here.”

“We, as a couple, need certain basic protections,” Paul said. “We can get some protections through expensive, time consuming, complicated legal documents, but there are a lot more protections that we will simply never get without being married.”

Paul and Gerardo are “no more and no less” than other couples, they said. Their love for each other is equal to the love of married opposite-sex couples and they want it to be recognized, they said.

“We feel that our basic dignity is not being respected,” Gerardo said. “There is no acknowledgement or recognition that our lives and commitments are the same as others’—no worse and no better. We need this freedom in Arizona.”

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