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We only ask for the rights because we’ve already accepted the responsibilities.

Rob Tisinai

November 20th, 2012

This morning I read Chris Geidner’s great article on how we beat back our opposition’s propaganda to sweep five marriage equality battles in the last election. This bit leapt out at me:

Commitment trumps rights, a point made in prior research by Freedom to Marry as well: “Leading with commitment will show the middle that gay people want to join the institution of marriage, not change it.”

We talk a lot about marriage rights, but every one of us in a committed relationship has a commitment story to tell — to lead with, in fact. Use the comments below to craft the one that belongs to you.

I told mine once before when Maggie Gallagher demonstrated her blithe ignorance of what commitment means by saying same-sex partners don’t need employer health benefits: “when both adults are working (as in egalitarian relationships), both partners tend to sustain their own health insurance.” Here it is:

In 2011, my partner Will fractured his wrist. He was back in school as a full-time student, with a full-time job that didn’t offer benefits. I hadn’t realized that schools don’t offer the same health care that I got a couple decades ago, so I hadn’t put him on my employer’s insurance. He ended up with a temporary cast, along with an appointment a couple weeks later and a warning they might have to rebreak his wrist before setting it properly.

We sorted it out, but I was angry for long afterward, and really I was furious with myself. Will didn’t think so, but I had failed him, and as we recounted the ordeal to his parents I could barely look them in the eye. Will is my responsibility, and I am his. His medical bills are my medical bills. If our circumstance changed, and I needed help, Will would quit school and take on three jobs if my health required it. So God help me, when it was over I didn’t fucking say to him, “Sorry, babe, but in an egalitarian relationship both partners sustain their own health insurance.”  No, I got him on my plan because that’s the way relationships work.

Will is my responsibility, and I am his. That’s the short version of the story. Actually that ought to be the first and last line every time I tell it.

People don’t marry just to take care of their kids. They marry to be responsible for each other: Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour / For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

It astonishes me how many of our religious opponents are so quick to forget their own Bible when they claim marriage is all about the kids. Marriage does come with legal rights, but the rights we care most about the ones that help us live up to our responsibilities: the right to be in that hospital room, to provide medical care, to make decisions when your partner cannot, to ensure he can support himself if you are taken, to give your employer an honest reason when you take a personal day for his sake, to live in the same room, the same home, the same country without fearing discrimination or separation.

Because of federal tax penalties, putting Will on my insurance amounts to a $3500 annual pay cut compared to what my married colleagues give up. I can see why someone might think I’m merely greedy when I point that out, concerned for nothing but what I can get from marriage equality. But those rights and benefits for married couples — available with kids or without — were put in place for a reason: to help spouses care for each other. And in a rare show of unanimity the entire political spectrum considers this very long tradition a very good thing. Which brings me to my single-sentence argument for marriage equality, the one I’ll come back to again and again.

We only ask for the rights because we’ve already accepted the responsibilities.

I’ve given you my story. Now tell me yours.

Comments

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Steve
November 20th, 2012 | LINK

Straight people generally have no clue how many rights and benefits are attached to marriage. They just take it for granted and pay no attention to it. The ones who take offense at a focus on rights, confuse rights with privileges.

The thing is that you don’t have to get married to show commitment. You can get commitment just by living together.

Hunter
November 20th, 2012 | LINK

“It astonishes me how many of our religious opponents are so quick to forget their own Bible when they claim marriage is all about the kids.”

Their own Bible? How about their own marriage vows?

jpeckjr
November 20th, 2012 | LINK

@Hunter. Yes! Exactly! Conservative Christian marriage advice emphasizes that the commitment the parents have to each other must be strong in order for the children to thrive. They say this all the time. They even say when the children are having trouble, the parents should look first at their own relationship to see if something needs attention.

If it’s all about the children, what’s love and commitment got to do with it?

Timothy Kincaid
November 20th, 2012 | LINK

If it’s all about the children, what’s love and commitment got to do with it?

It’s a second hand emotion

Marcus
November 20th, 2012 | LINK

Sorry, but it’s sort of depressing that straights apparently need to be reminded that same-sex couples love and commit the same way they do.

Don
November 20th, 2012 | LINK

My partner of 27 years has AIDS, diabeties, has had a liver transplant and now is on dialysis due to kidney failure from the drugs needed to prevent rejection (not uncommon in some cases). It has never once occured to me to leave him despite the hardships we have had to endure. (Can certain republican politians make the same claim?) Maggie Gallegher thinks gay relationships are only about the sex; we all know that our relationships are no different than straight relationships. I think my commitment thru every illness has shown to his family, to my family, to our neighbors and to our co-workers that gay or straight, partners care for each other; in sickness or in health.

jpeckjr
November 21st, 2012 | LINK

@Timothy. What’s that supposed to mean, huh? Is that a song reference or something?

You better be good to me, Kincaid. I know where you blog! :-))

(apologies for turning the thread into a Tina Turner comment-off)

Rob’s original post is very powerful and Don’s comment speaks real truth about real commitment. Thanks to both.

Now An Agnostic
November 21st, 2012 | LINK

Christians like Maggie, of NOM fame (or should it be shame?), say Marriage is not needed. LGBT couples can accomplish the Marriage Contract through existing legal measures–i.e. spending a couple thousand dollars for the services of a good estate lawyer.

My good Lesbian friends did just that. Their assests were significant, but they are far from wealthy. They hired a lawyer to put everything they owned into a trust. They planned to protect each other. Each little change to the trust required another thousand dollars or so for the lawyer’s services. They thought they had everything taken care of.

When Jean died at 67 from pancreatic cancer, after 40 years together, Rose discovered AZ law trumped anything they could have done legally. Rose had no legal custody of her partner’s body–well, as Executor of the estate she would have if there were no blood relatives living. But, the Executor comes at the bottom of the list. Rose had to get legal consent from Jean’s sister for the cremation. In this case, the sister’s children are beneficiaries of the trust so there were no problems.

Just another story for same sex civil marriage. Yes. What it is called DOES mean everything.

Timothy Kincaid
November 21st, 2012 | LINK

jpeckjr

;)

Timothy Kincaid
November 21st, 2012 | LINK

NAA,

I’ve been seeing an odd situation emerge – one that I hadn’t predicted. I’m not sure if it holds true in you friends’ example, but here it is:

Repeatedly I’ve seen stories in which a person dies and the remaining partner has to get permission for every detail from a sibling or cousin. But rather than see this as their right as “next of kin”, it infuriates the sibling who loved the couple and now sees the parter put in an unfair and humiliating position.

And then suddenly a new angry straight advocate for equality is created. Who then tells all their straight friends about how unfair and cruel it is to deny rights to gay couples.

I don’t think NOM ever expected that.

It makes me smile.

Donny D.
November 22nd, 2012 | LINK

Marcus wrote,

Sorry, but it’s sort of depressing that straights apparently need to be reminded that same-sex couples love and commit the same way they do.

Straight people are used to thinking they are the only people who exist, and that everyone else is an insignificant exception. Those who think this way includes many straight people who see themselves as non-homophobic. “How men feel” is always how exclusively-heterosexual men feel, ditto with women; “growing up” is always about straight teens — and “couples” always means opposite sex couples. Straight people are only starting to get used to the idea that in the normal day to day world, gay and bisexual people exist, too.

jpeckjr
November 23rd, 2012 | LINK

While working on my own living will / health care agent / advanced health care directive, I learned that in my state, the law is “ambiguous” about who is legal next-of-kin. That is, it does not specify which legal or blood relative is responsible for health care decisions. Even my state’s marriage laws (one man, one woman) do not specify that the spouse is the legal next of kin in all cases for health care.

My attorney told me in the absence of a clear health care agent appointment, the hospital / doctor will defer to the spouse / oldest child / oldest sibling. A legal case can be made that those people are “next-of-kin.”

He also thought married same-sex couples should have a copy of their marriage license handy, not that an opposite-sex couple would be asked to prove they are legally married.

He advises all adults — single, married, gay, straight, living alone, living with others — to designate a health care agent and an alternate.

Robert
November 24th, 2012 | LINK

jpeckjr,

my husband and I have multiple copies of our marriage liscence for just the reason you stated. I also took his last name in case we are out of our equality state. (As often occurs in any relationship, we now bear a striking resemblence to each other) We can say we are “brothers” if we are ever in need in a trip cross country, and it’s a darn shame we have to pretend in order to be able to answer for each other in those times of need. We also have medical directives which we have copies of.

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