In 2007 when one of the men I loved more than the sun and the moon slowly succumbed to AIDS his partner and I spent long evenings getting papers filed and signed. When it was time to make decision about his treatment and ultimately the disposition of his body the man he’d shared a life with for seventeen years was entitled to nothing without contracts and lawyers. Had they been a man and a woman the amount of time spent together sharing homes, businesses, dogs and meals would have made them common law spouses but because they were same sex everything was complicated and the laws of our nation seemed cruel when doctors and nurses did their best to show us compassion.
Guess what kids? When I get stabbed with a bottle at a bar brawl and I’m admitted to the hospital Mr. G is the one who makes all the decisions about my care. If my mother shows up and tells hospital security to remove my husband because she didn’t approve of the marriage they’ll look at her and laugh. Why? That’s the protection that marriage offers people. According to this news report nurses at the hospital refused to look up Roger Gorley and Allen’s joint Power of Attorney.
This is why marriage matters.
Two men or two women shouldn’t have to worry about waving around pieces of paper when one of them is sick or injured. It’s inhumane that we’d treat the body of a person while simultaneously denying their personhood.
People are going to make the argument that Roger or Allen could be your son, your uncle, your brother or your cousin. Though familial relationships may bring a certain sentiment to the conversation I’m going to go a step further. Roger and Allen are two strangers. They are two men that I’ve never met and I’m unlikely to meet. They presumably love one another and have built a life together just as my husband and I have. I don’t have to meet them, like them or know about the quality of their relationship to honor it and to treat them with dignity.
We need to treat all of our citizens equally.
Sometimes at dinner my mother will tell the kids about the segregation of her youth and they sit in disbelief because it feels like ancient history. In 28 years I hope to be sitting at a dinner table with my own grandchildren, seeing faces that are stunned when I tell them about how we used to discriminate against LGBTQ Americans.