Marriage Rights: Give My Friends What I Have

450px-New_York_City_Proposition_8_Protest_outside_LDS_temple_20I’m at that place in life when many of my friends are losing parents.  My husband lost his beloved mother three years ago, my mother passed last year.

When we both lost our mothers, we had strong support from employers and friends.  Newspapers listed us as survivors in both cases, and we were buoyed up by the love and support that we felt. We stood side-by-side at their wakes, greeting family and friends who came to pay respects.

Why shouldn’t my gay friends enjoy the same rights I have in my marriage?

Here in the heartland, my gay friends’ relationships are in the shadows, out but not entirely out.  Frankly, I do not blame them.  There’s much to risk in this red state, in addition to the usual scorn and judgment that society places on them.

We wait for SCOTUS to decide on two cases that may affect the adoption of full marriage equality, across our nation and what that means. I want all of my friends to enjoy what I have – the ups and downs of a long-term marriage and society’s acceptance.

When we announced our engagement, we had a formal portrait taken and people gave us parties and gifts.  No such thing for my gay friends.  No picture in the paper; no tea-towels embroidered by great Aunt Martha. The New York Times changed its policy several years ago and now publishes wedding stories from those states that have marriage equality. For the most part, you don’t see it in local newspapers.

When my husband was in the hospital, no one questioned whether I should be by his side and be the recipient of information from doctors and nurses. When my husband’s mother died, my employer gave me paid time off to attend the funeral, and then sent a plant.  My gay friends most likely cannot even cover a domestic partner with employee health benefits as I have enjoyed for the last three decades.

Not all of the benefits will  delight if marriage equality becomes the law of the land – partners who make around the same income will discover the “marriage penalty” tax. Those who have one large income and one small income will discover the “marriage bonus” tax.  Rather, full marriage equality may mean that all of us have the right to pay more taxes.

Today in court those who oppose gay marriage argued that marriage is for procreation, and then Associate Justice Elena Kagan asked about older couples.  That’s a good question.  When one in two marriages of a male and a female end in divorce, why is there such uproar about traditional marriage?  For half of those who marry, it is an abysmal failure.

How does my good or poor marriage affect another’s ability to have a good or poor marriage? I support marriage and find it to be a good thing, and I’m in a long-term partnership, marriage, relationship that was blessed by the state long ago.

What can you do if you agree with marriage equality? You can work behind the scenes for change.

When our President talked about marriage equality during his second inaugural address in January, this signaled significant change for our country.  This is not about religion; this is about civil rights.  Churches will continue to marry whomever they want. No Catholic church should be forced to marry someone who is divorced if church law prohibits it.

I volunteer for several non-profits where I ask the question: are domestic partnerships of gay individuals treated differently than those of a man and a woman?  Change is coming.

Ask the question of those organizations you support.  Become an ally.  Ask yourself: would you want to be treated differently?  If you were the parent of a gay child, would you want him or her to be treated differently?

Amy McVay Abbott is an Indiana writer whose newspaper column “The Raven Lunatic” runs biweekly in a dozen Midwestern newspapers.  Follow her on Twitter at #ravenonhealth or visit her website at www.amyabhottwrites.com.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

  • Joan Haskins

    This is a terrific piece. Just a few decades ago, my interracial marriage would have been illegal. Everyone deserves the freedom to marry. It’s a civil right, an equal right, and a human right.

  • Jean Howell

    Thank you, Mrs. Abbott, for your usual clarity. The question I have asked for years is “how are others harmed by gay marriage?” Why are opponents so willing to employ meanness and judgement when marriage in any demographic is a 50 / 50 proposition?

  • Darci

    Great article, Amy. Thank you for writing it.

  • Maureen

    Salient points throughout. Marriage rights should be granted to any adults willing to make a loving commitment to each other. Procreation stopped becoming a factor in marriage many years ago, fortunately or unfortunately. We need to separate the legal issues from the religious perspective in this discussion. Looking forward to reading more of your articles.

  • Sandra Stephens

    Well said! It makes me very angry to encounter people who want to impose their values on others as a matter of preferential legal right.I It’s not even about being gay or straight, it’s about standing up to injustice, which affects us all, gay and straight. When we stand up for our gay friends, we stand against tyranny and small-mindedness.

    We should make buttons or something. I’d totally wear a huge button for marriage equality! I’ve always wanted to use one of those political button makers.

  • Boanerges

    Yes, well, gay marriage has been the law up here for going on ten years.

    There was the predictable outrage from certain corners (similar to that surrounding abolition of the death penalty and introduction of health care decades earlier), but guess what? Society didn’t come apart, the sky didn’t fall and seas didn’t boil.

    I didn’t understand, and still don’t, what the fuss is about.

    As for what it’s like having a gay brother, check out Deborah Méndez Wilson’s post on the subject on Open Salon.

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