Today the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed the rights of gay Americans to marry. This morning there was a celebration of rainbows and love and shortly thereafter politicians and quasi religious leaders began with hateful horrible statements.
I need to remind you why gay marriage matters.
I need to remind you that your gay children are at a much higher risk for depression and suicide. You’re worried about teaching them to cross the street? How about making sure they don’t throw themselves in front of a train. A society that acknowledges that same sex love is of equal value as heterosexual love will keep more than a few kids from hurting themselves.
When I read the decision I cried. I cried because it’s been nearly 30 years of frustration around this very issue.
When you grow up with West Hollywood as your playground inevitably you’ll have gay friends. Want to dance, shop, or travel? West Hollywood was (and still is) a haven for young, beautiful and creative men. Make a few friends and then sometime around 1988 a handful of them are gone. By 1989 it’s half and by 1992 you’ve been to more funerals than your heart can handle.
Being the straight woman at bedsides and grave sites more than once meant that I was shoved forward to the family, “This is ____’s friend.” In a strange attempt to prove this was not a man who had been ghettoized by West Hollywood, friends nudged me toward mothers whose faces were full of regret and fathers whose faces contorted with anger and sadness. These families were broken by by their beliefs not by their sons. Their sons never stopped loving them, they just couldn’t live safely where they’d been raised.
Because same sex marriage was not recognized in California in 1989 I watched a family take a business and a retirement fund from a man who had built it equally with his partner of 15 years. They just marched in and took everything. I watched that same family memorialize their son with none of his friends in attendance. They took his body and buried it elsewhere, not where the man who cared for him until the moment he took his last breath lived. They hired a priest who spoke no English and ignored the pastor who had nurtured their son for decades.
In 2006 because gay marriage was still not recognized another friend was on his deathbed and his partner of 15 years was not his next of kin. With a wink and a nod some very kind doctors and nurses listened when I said I was his sister thus enabling us to ask to for more care, for an ombudsman and ultimately for relief. His family had never been to his home in California. They had never left Mississippi to see him, they had never visited because he was gay and that was bad. When they came it was too late.
Steven’s partner wasn’t entitled to his remains, to his business, to his life insurance or to carry out any of his wishes. Steven’s partner was never able to share health insurance. Steven’s partner might not have even been allowed to stay in the hospital past official visiting hours had we not been in the heart of West Hollywood.
Gay marriage isn’t about gay rights. Gay marriage is about human rights. It’s about birth, life, death and the changing of the seasons. It’s about children being born and adopted in homes where they are loved and cherished. It’s about living with the same rights as every other human on the planet. It’s about celebrations and wedding cakes and illnesses and health insurance, it’s about mortgages and car loans and student housing and all sorts of credit.
Gay marriage isn’t about your religion. If your religion is obsessed with gay marriage then congratulations! You’ve got a lot in common with these men.