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Equality in commitment

Posted: 26 May 2009, 16:46

A good friend of mine in California sent a group message via Facebook regarding today’s ruling on Proposition 8, the banning of same-sex marriage in that state. I just wanted to share a few thoughts on commitment to a person, and why we should not hinder its existence.

While we here in WA don’t have same sex marriage legalised, we do have domestic partnerships with the same rights, regardless of gender, and legal language that does allows for gender neutrality in all rights. Of course, there are folks who want to challenge that legislation, and my hope is such a challenge will go down in flames.

Why?

I think of the day—back when I lived in Utah—when people voted to ban the same rights to “non-married couples.” While everyone patted themselves on the back for “protecting” marriage, I was furious, as it didn’t just negate any same-sex couple’s rights, but any non-married couple’s. That meant even people in long term, committed relationships, regardless of gender, couldn’t, for instance, get the same visitation/hospital rights as a family member or spouse. I look at my recent brain surgery, and it terrifies me to think of what might have been, had I not been in Washington. My fiancée was by my side, day and night, and with the exception of a few days visit by a few family members, she was the only person running the show. The paperwork showed her as my “life-partner” and without that openness, I doubt my hospital time would have gone as smoothly as it did. She got me through what was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever faced, but had the law not allowed her to make decisions and be by my side at all times while I was in a hazy state, I don’t quite know how I would have survived.

I cannot for a moment think that any couple should be denied their rights, regardless of the gender pairing. Allowing a gay couple to marry will never “hurt marriage.” Divorces, philandering and lack of communication between partners—now that is what hurts marriage, yet you don’t see the government banning those! Of the same-sex partnerships I’ve seen here in Seattle, their commitment to each other seems true and set, in strong contrast to the willy-nilly teenage weddings many of us grew accustomed to growing up in Utah.

I never thought I’d see a day when places like Iowa and New England were more progressive and open than California, and it saddens me to see more negative, knee-jerk reaction to marriage equality. The kind of ignorance and hatred behind these rulings are about as constitutionally sound as the old laws that banned the marriage of whites to blacks, and so forth. Have we already forgotten the lessons learned during the civil rights movement?

Marriage is not just “something you do” when you’ve been together a while. If a person bases their marriage decision on anything less than a true commitment to that future spouse, it is more damning to the state of marriage than gender will ever be.