Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why Same Sex Marriage Matters (To Me)

A few weeks ago, my partner Daniel woke me out of a deep sleep. He was complaining of chest pains, so we got dressed and went to a nearby hospital. I went into emergency with him as they tried to find out if this was his heart or something else. It turned out he was having a gallbladder attack and he was scheduled to have surgery the next day.

The day of surgery, I met up with his sister and her husband and also placed a copy of Daniel's health care directive in my backpack just in case.

In the end, everything turned out okay, but all through the experience I was wondering how the medical staff would look at me, who in their eyes had no legal standing. Lucky for us, when we explained that we were partners, the staff treated us with kindness.

When some fellow Republicans and other conservatives talk about how same sex marriage will destroy society as they know it, I wonder if they think about something as mundane as hospital visits. You see, I was lucky in that Daniel and I live in an area where there is some tolerance for gays (I guess liberals do have their uses at times). And we were lucky that we were able to afford the $900 we had to pay a lawyer to make sure we had the right to make medical decisions on each other's behalf.

But that's all that we have: luck and the ability to pay for some legal protection. If we lived in area that was not as tolerant or didn't have good-paying jobs, we would have been in big trouble.

Heterosexual couples get these protections simply by signing a marriage license. But same sex couples don't enjoy those privileges automatically.

Many of my fellow conservatives see Daniel and I as a threat to society. But that fact is, same sex couples are doing something that is fundamentally conservative: wanting to enter in to the institution of marriage. We want to form stable families like our parents did.

There was a time when many gay people didn't even think of marriage or when they did, they might have seen it as a repressive tool. But these days, as we have become more open and more mainstream, we want to form life-long partnerships with each other.

I want to know how in the world Daniel and I can be a threat by simply wanting to make sure we see each other in the hospital or make sure we can get each others benefits upon death or other boring things like that.

If a church doesn't want to marry same sex couples, they are free to do so and I would defend that right. It's the conservative thing to do. But I want to have the right to legally marry my husband and be left alone. That's the conservative thing to do as well. Why do people who claim to want small government, want to have the same government decide who can get married and who can't? Isn't that government activism, something that is not very conservative?

My Dad grew up in Jim Crow Louisiana. He has told me that when he first moved to my native Michigan, he would sometimes drive down South to visit his mom. In Michigan, my Aunt Nora would fix a basket of food for him to eat on the way down, and his mother would do the same thing in Louisiana for his return trip. Why? Because in the 1950s, he couldn't pull over and stop at a restaurant for food, since they didn't serve blacks. He also couldn't stop at hotel for the same reason, which meant taking a snooze on the side of the road.

I know that those who are opposed to same sex marriage and for things like the amendment in California don't like being called bigots. They say this about larger issues. But the fact is, the only reason one would support such an amendment is because they have a problem with being gay. There is just no way around that.

Same sex marriage matters because we are talking about my life and the life of my partner and many of my gay friends who are also partnered. It's simply about our lives and the freedom to live our lives without interference from the State.

That sounds conservative to me.

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