"That's not right"

More and more people from all walks of life are coming out against the civil unions and marriage ban. It isn’t hard for people to oppose it once they understand the second sentence. It’s true that if passed, the ban would have a negative impact on a broad range of communities including all unmarried non-gay couples in a committed relationship.

But sometimes I worry that because of these far-reaching consequences, gay and lesbian families stop talking about themselves and instead talk about how it will hurt their non-gay counterparts.

We shouldn’t stop having these conversations—certainly it’s better to talk about the ban in any capacity then to be silent—but I tend to think that in doing so we’re not giving average Wisconsinites enough credit. I could talk to my neighbor about how the ban would hurt her and her boyfriend; but, if I don’t talk about how it will hurt Megan and me, I don’t show her how difficult it is for her next-door neighbors, and hundreds of other gay couples, to plan their lives together.

People are shocked when they learn Megan and I can’t share health insurance, that I won’t automatically be legally recognized as a parent to Megan’s child (whenever that day comes!), that our Powers of Attorney are in jeopardy, or even that a civil union in Vermont isn’t valid in Wisconsin.

Every time I have a conversation about how my relationship and my family's future is hurt by the denial of the legal protections of marriage, the person with whom I’m talking responds, “That’s not right.”

This morning I was supposed to have a meeting with Ray Vahey to discuss a party he and his partner Richard are hosting in September to celebrate their 50th anniversary and to benefit Fair Wisconsin.

Our meeting was cancelled because last night Richard suffered a heart attack while undergoing a chemotherapy treatment.

The list of “that’s not rights” comes to a head when I think about this couple. I believe a majority Wisconsinites are with me in thinking that it’s not right that after 50 years of love and commitment, Ray isn't automatically able to make health care decisions for Richard. It’s not right that when one of them dies, the other doesn’t have the vested right to be buried in the same cemetery plot. It's not right that the surviving partner won’t get access to the other’s hard-earned Social Security benefits. And it certainly is not right that at this difficult time, the couple has to worry about these things.

I know it is often hard for gay and lesbian people to share their personal stories. But I'm afraid if we don't, it will be a whole lot harder come November 8.

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At 5:47 PM, Blogger David Schowengerdt said...

Thanks for posting this, Ingrid. It's so very important to talk about our lives and how this ban would really hurt us. And you're right about the average person understanding - they do deserve the credit of being able to be sympathetic and understanding once they hear our perspectives, our worries, our anxieties and our hopes and dreams.

At 11:13 AM, Anonymous Kory said...

I completely agree with this and I believe our message needs to carry a balance of both. If we don't talk about "what's in it for us" people will wonder what our motivation is or wonder why we're not talking about it.


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