I’m gay. To anyone who has met me and heard me open my mouth, this should not come as a shock, or even a faint surprise. The only ways in which I am not a walking lesbian stereotype are that a) I do not have a faux-hawk and b) I am comically terrible at softball (damn you, depth perception!).
Gay people are a minority. We make up between 3-10% of the population, depending on who’s counting and what amount of homosexual activity they’re counting as gay.
Because we are a small minority, we need all the help we can get in fighting for our rights. And that’s why I need your help. You, friend of mine. You, random stranger who has stumbled across this blog post.
I need you to help me out by voting in favor of marriage equality.
Without your help, I will not be able to legally marry the person of my choice. Without your help, any relationship I enter with a woman will continue to be viewed as inherently inferior by the government, and any non-government entity which must adhere to government regulations.
Without your help, the drive for marriage equality will go nowhere.
I’m often asked when discussing this issue, “Why is the word marriage so important? Why do you care so much about marriage, anyway?” I’ll try to answer these questions, in reverse order.
Why do you care so much about marriage, anyway?
This question is generally followed up with “Aren’t you single?” (or, if you are one of my assorted parental units, “Don’t you have a girlfriend yet?”). I am indeed still single, but I’ve watched marriage affect every single one of my friends.
I’m 31, so I’ve been to what feels like a bazillion weddings in the last few years. Mostly straight weddings, but a few gay ones sprinkled liberally about.
At every wedding I have attended, no matter the participants, or the religion (or lack thereof), or the location, the key moment came when two people have stood up in front of their friends and family, and pledged to spend their lives together.
That, at its core, is what marriage is about to me. When I find someone I want to spend the rest of my life with, I want to do that. And I want to have every right and responsibility that comes with it.
Why is the word marriage so important?
In the United States, there are two institutions of marriage. The first is Religious marriage, and it is defined differently by every religion. The second is Civil marriage, and it is recognized very similarly throughout the states and by the federal government.
Many churches and synagogues would have denied my parents the ability to marry in their confines because my father is Jewish and my mother is Catholic. But their Civil marriage was still recognized, for the seventeen years it lasted, by all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Civil unions are a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, they are only a step.
There are still hundreds of rights and responsibilities that are automatically afforded to married couples that couples who are in a civil union or domestic partnership must, at best, fill out mountains of paperwork and pay thousands of dollars in legal fees to achieve. At worst, these rights and responsibilities are still completely denied.
“This is my husband” or “This is my wife” are clear and unambiguous statements about your relationship to another person. You can make them whether you’re married or not. The difference is whether the state and any entity within that state has to respect those statements.
If you don’t have legal acknowledgement from the state and other entities that your relationship exists, the following horror stories become possible, just to name a few:
- Shane Bitney’s incredibly sad video detailing the ordeal he went through when his boyfriend, Tom Bridegroom died suddenly and his boyfriend’s parents only acknowledged his existence long enough to threaten him with physical harm should he come anywhere near the funeral.
- Brittany Leon and Terri-Ann Simonelli’s terrible experience with a Nevada hospital that flagrantly ignored Nevada law which should have entitled Simonelli to see Leon through a miscarriage, but instead found her barred from her partner’s room. And to add insult to injury, the hospital was only too happy to take the insurance that Simonelli provided. Gots to get paid, yo!
- Laurel Hester had to spend her dying months fighting with the Freeholders of Ocean County, NJ to leave her pension, earned in 24 years as a cop, to her partner, Stacie Andree. If they had been married, there would have been zero question as to Andree’s entitlment to Hester’s benefits, but as a registered domestic partner, they still had to get a special exception from the Freeholders, who refused to grant such an exception until a media shitstorm descended upon them.
If there was a magical way to have gay marriage have a different name and still have it actually grant equal rights, I might be okay with that. The problem is that in the real world, as these stories show, when you call something by a different name, it becomes a different thing altogether.
That’s why the word marriage matters.
Get to the point. What is the favor you want?
Like I said: Gays are a small minority. We cannot defend our rights when they are placed on a the ballot without a hell of a lot of help. And that means that I need to ask you for a favor.
The votes that I ask you, as a personal favor to me in order to protect my rights, to make are in bold:
- In Minnesota, a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Gay marriage is currently prohibited by law in Minnesota, but this law would put the ban in place at a State-Constitutional level to prevent the Minnesota State Supreme Court from overturning the existing law as unconstitutional. Even if you actually disagree with me about gay marriage, there are very good reasons not to enshrine that disagreement in the State Constitution, laid out here by one of its authors. Please vote No to prevent amending the Minnesota State Constitution in this manner.
- In Washington State, Referendum 74 and in Maryland, Question 6. These referenda would overturn laws in each state that were passed by the State Legislature and signed by the Governor legalizing gay marriage. Please vote Yes in Washington and No in Maryland to keep gay marriage legal in each of these states.
- In Maine, Question 1. This would overturn an existing ban on gay marriage that narrowly passed by referendum in 2009. Please vote Yes to make gay marriage legal in Maine.
I will ask one final favor. If, after taking the time to read all this, you are still not in favor of gay marriage, I ask that you contact me, particularly if you know me, but even if you don’t. I want to talk through your reasoning with you. I want to challenge you to think about what it is that drives your opposition to gay marriage.
And know this: You will not lose me as a friend for not being in favor of gay marriage.
You will only lose me as a friend if you don’t wish to have a civil discussion about it. I can’t promise to take the emotion out of it entirely – if you’ve read this far, you can tell this is something I care about deeply.
What would make me not want to be friends with you is refusing to reconsider or defend your position. I still consider myself to be friends with plenty of people who hold positions I very deeply disagree with.
But if you would prefer not to think too hard about it? If you would rather stick with your position because it’s the only one you know rather than consider that I might have a point? Then. That’s when I’m out.
Thank you for reading.
And should you choose to do so, thank you very much for voting in favor of marriage equality. I owe you one.