Sunday, February 08, 2009

Why marriage matters

Those of us who advocate for marriage equality have shown how it’s the many every day, common things that make full equality the only option. Here’s one such example.

A Washington state woman, Janice Langbehn, is in federal court suing Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami claiming emotional distress and negligence after the hospital refused to allow her to see her dying partner. As the Miami Herald reported it:
As her partner of 17 years slipped into a coma, Janice Langbehn pleaded with doctors and anyone who would listen to let her into the woman's hospital room.

Eight anguishing hours passed before Langbehn would be allowed into Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center. By then, she could only say her final farewell as a priest performed the last rites on 39-year-old Lisa Marie Pond.

Jackson staffers advised Langbehn that she could not see Pond earlier because the hospital's visitation policy in cases of emergency was limited to immediate family and spouses—not partners…
Langbehn and Pond were on a cruise docked in Miami with their three adopted children when Pond suffered a brain aneurysm. Even though she presented the hospital with “documents declaring her Pond's legal guardian and giving her the medical ‘power of attorney,’ Jackson officials refused to recognize her or the kids as family.”

If Langbehn and Pond were a legally married heterosexual couple, this would never have happened. It’s also unlikely that they would ever need such documents.

But last November, 62% Florida voters decided to make same-sex marriage—already illegal in that state—extra illegal by enshrining the ban in their state constitution. But the amendment wasn’t just aimed at all the evil homos, it essentially stripped legal protections from gay or straight “domestic partners” alike.

In the United States, marriage is a state matter, which is why cases in individual states matter. Everyone knows what legal rights marriage conveys—especially, as in cases like this, next-of-kin status. In the US, “civil unions” or “domestic partnership”, or whatever separate-but-equal name states give it, can potentially have 50 different definitions.

So when the opponents of marriage equality talk grandly of “protecting” marriage, or of “strengthening families”, what they really want is to destroy gay and lesbian families and to rip them apart. They talk about their “concern” for children, but they think nothing of destroying loving homes in their zeal.

No opponent of marriage equality has ever—ever—provided a single logical, rational and secular reason why marriage equality shouldn’t be the law in all 50 states. They haven’t because they can’t. Being determined to deny the freedom and legal rights of other citizens without any logical, rational and secular reasons has a name: Bigotry.

This case is only one among thousands of similar cases happening every day in the US as a consequence of this bigotry. How many more people will be forced to suffer in the name of hate? Yes, marriage matters.

A word of warning: If you read the linked article, don’t read the comments. Like most newspapers these days, comments on stories like this bring out a swarm of wingnuts, bigots, haters and religious fanatics. Don’t spoil your day by reading them.


Roger Owen Green said...

Oh, it doesn't take a "polarizing" issue to bring out the wingnuts. there's video of a bunch of DC (read: black) kids wanting Obama to promote more Internet access. the racist comments made my teeth grind.

Arthur Schenck said...

The worst comment section that I've seen anywhere is YouTube where, it seems, only the seriously unhinged are allowed to comment. I exaggerate, but not by much.

Most of the comments on stories about US politics have people making (very) thinly veiled racist attacks on Obama. That was the turning point for me, and it's why I seldom read the comments on mainstream news media sites anymore.

On the other hand, the Miami Herald lets you flag comments for abuse of one sort or another, which forces real humans to look at them. That's a good thing (and I flagged some that were either clearly hate speech or personal attacks or both).

d said...

Ugh...it's stories like this one that just break my heart. There's an "If These Walls Could Talk" HBO movie (now DVD) that explores this issue through the years.

As for comments, I can't read them anymore on any site - Newsweek, Eonline - there are just stupid right-wing idiots everywhere I look. :-P

Anonymous said...

Please don't tell your readers not to read a comments section. I know it's bad, but it's important to be exposed to the worst of it in order to better understand your opponent. If you found the comments particularly bad, simply warning the readers, without encouraging them to ignore the comments, would have sufficed. If anything is really that bad then the readers should be able to decide to keep reading or not for themselves. Other than that, great article, keep up the good work.

Arthur Schenck said...

D: I've actually seen that (the abortion one and the gay one). Both well done, if a little heavy-handed.

Anon: Point taken. In fact, it's the main reason I look at comments at all now: The old saying, "know your enemy". But most of these people are, or pretend to be, seriously disturbed individuals and there are times I simply can't take reading any more of their bald hatred.

Readers will decide for themselves, of course, whether to read comments on a linked story, regardless of what I say, but you're probably right that a simple warning is enough. This is a topic in itself, one I'll return to again, I'm sure.