Sunday, July 11, 2010

My right to Marry.

As I sit here sipping on my first cup of coffee of the morning and clear the sleepiness from my eyes and head I'm reading something in USA Today that prompts me to write before my day gets going.  I will try to make this as cogent as I can given the fact that the caffeine hasn't kicked in yet.  

A Federal judge in Massachusetts recently ruled that the Federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) was unconstitutional.  The ruling states:
Congress undertook this classification for the one purpose that lies entirely outside of legislative bounds, to disadvantage a group of which it disapproves. And such a classification, the Constitution clearly will not permit.  (Read more here)
Duh.  I'm not a lawyer and even I could tell you that.  It's amazing to me that this isn't clear as day to everyone.  It has also been clear to me for a long time that this would happen.  It wasn't a question of if - it was a question of when.   Now the big question is whether or not the President will appeal and, if he does, what the Supreme Court will say about the issue.

Those chess moves are yet to be made but either way, this is a big deal.  It's a big deal for those of us who believe that putting the rights for a minority up to popular vote from a priviledged majority inherently leads to injustice, discrimination, and second-class citizenship status.  And, for something as fundamentally human as marriage - the ultimate expression of a truly committed relationship - it has as much to do about validating our love, our relationships, and our families as it does about higher ideals like "justice".

I think many people are unaware about what DOMA does.  It prevents married couples from being recognized as married as far as the Federal government is concerned.  Some would say "big deal", but it is a big deal.  If you're a same-sex couple married in a state that recognizes same sex marriages you still can't file your income tax as "married" - that's just one example - so all the benefits of marriage are denied.  And, that's just one simple example.

Why do I care?  Well, besides the fact that this just isn't right and my social consciousness has been all over this for a long time, the fact of the matter is that I expect to be married again someday and more likely than not my partner will be another woman.  I expect to have that kind of caring, loving relationship based on mutual respect, mutual goals, and we'll want to move the relationship to that level.  And, even if we don't for some reason the fact is that being told that it isn't an option for us is unacceptable.  It needs to be, and it will be.

Needless to say, the Right Wing and the Fundies are hopping all over this.  They're concerned that all their work to build walls state by state to prevent our relationships from being recognized are about to be laid to waste.  I don't blame them from being worried because it was only a matter of time before this happened, and even if something happens in the sort-term to put this on hold it's still only a matter of time before they're just a bunch of talking heads whose 15-minutes in the spotlight has come and gone.

It's infuriating but not surprising to see people touting "traditional values" who compare recognition of loving, committed same-sex couples to allowing bestiality, pedophilia, incest, or polygamy.  These are the same people who will twist a conversation about transgender discrimination into an argument about perverts and bathrooms.  The only Traditional Value that they're espousing is Hate.  And, although I respect everyone's right to have an opinion when that opinion directly affects me or my right to live my life it's probably best that we don't argue about it.

Paradigms are shifting.  For example, for many of us who grew up simply accepting that the expenses of having gender transition related surgeries would come out of our own pockets which prevented many of us from even considering them - that is changing.  For a company to receive a perfect score of 100 on the Corporate Equality Index next year they will need to have at least one benefit plan that removes ALL exclusions for transgender related wellness services and that includes surgeries.  I had dinner with one friend the other night whose entire set of SRS procedures with Dr. Meltzer were covered by their insurance - her total out of pocket expense was somewhere around $1,300.  That, my friends, is a BIG deal not only because it opens the door for many of us for whom the door had been tightly closed but because it recognizes the fact that these procedures are not simply cosmetic in nature.

Google recently updated their benefits plan to cover the extra expenses that same-sex couples incur because they are not covered by marriage benefits (details here).  That, too, is a big deal.  As has been true for a long time, corporate America is a step ahead of the legislative component of our culture in paving the way for equality and fairness.  And, I assure you, Google will not be alone in making these kinds of "cutting edge" moves.  But these are the efforts of corporate America to offset the inequities of injustice.

A "Marriage" contest on the Today show originally excluded same-sex couples from entering.  But pressure from GLAAD and from the community helped them to realize the inequity of this so they changed the rules several days later (read their statement here).  The so-called "American Family Association" is not amused and is telling anyone who visits their website to boycott Today.  Good luck with that.  They, too, recognize that they're losing this war and are trying to hold back the tide (here's an article attacking Home Depot for supporting LGBT rights).  But, the tide will not be held back so it's only a matter of time before they become the same thing as a White Supremicist group after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or for an anti-alcohol group after the end of Prohibition - all of whom predicted the collapse of Western Civilization but who eventually became irrelevant.

Will legislation magically fix things?  Of course not.  There is a cultural component to this that has been in progress for a long time and that will continue.  As more of us become visible, as more of us become "real" to others as living, breathing, healthy people rather than as some abstract concept built upon outdated stereotypes the barriers between "us" and "them" fall.  And, the easier it gets to codify the concepts of equality and justice that we like to believe are foundations upon which this country was built.

Back to my original intention for writing this.  As a group we need to recognize that not only are we entitled to the same rights as anyone else and that to accept anything less is unacceptable.  I have stepped back from many of my roles in more traditionally political efforts but I am far from done doing the work that stirs my passions.  I am confident that I will get married someday and when that day happens it will be a celebration.  It will be a celebration not only of love and commitment, but a celebration of personhood and respect.  And, until that day is possible - not in just a few states but anywhere in this country - this voice and this heart will be part of the solution, not part of the problem.


Anonymous said...

I had a co-worker once comment that if the government recognized marriage between same sex couples that within a year, we would be seeing men marry chickens. I laughed so hard I cried. Then I started wondering why he was concerned with men marrying chickens. Had he considered marrying a chicken at one time do his friends court chickens and would they considering marrying chickens? One just has to wonder what causes some of the thoughts that enter the right wing extreme mind. I mean really! Was this guy really concerned about the rights of chickens? I like animals, so that would have to be my angle if I had that concern; Of course that thought never crossed my mind. The more I thought about it the more I decided this guy was really frightening and what a scary place his mind must be.

Sorry; Just every time I hear about the right fighting to remove the rights of others, especially regarding marriage, I can not help but recall this crazy comment :)

Of course I think we all know they are just making up anything they can, since there is no way to justify revoking the rights of others beyond admitting ones own bigotry and small minded thought process. It just must be embarrassing that the only thing that could spring to his mind was a chicken.

pe1biv said...

Indeed, Donna!
As LGBTQ(I) we ahould and WILL have equal rights! It only is when..

Marion61521 said...

... one successful tactic being used by the intolerant is to throw lots of political capital into a state-by-state challenge to homosexual marriage. It is a diversion that has undermined enactment of ENDA. Traditionalists rightly or wrongly fear a change in who is allowed to enter such unions where they might otherwise support ending discrimmination in employment, housing, civil rights that is currently upheld in most parts of the country.

These are weighty issues but in our need to be treated equally and fairly we have put too much at once on our plate and the intolerant thus far have won ... I appreciate your sense of the "inevitability" of the right for all to marry but respectfully I do not share such optimism. When we knock down the last barrier to equal rights for all we open up a better life for many who are barely surviving today.