My civil dialogue with Gay Patriot on same-sex marriage and marriage equality for lesbians and gays

by CynthiaYockey on May 19, 2009

Cynthia and Margaret on

Margaret Ardussi (left) and Cynthia Yockey -- we celebrated our twentieth anniversary while Margaret was in hospice care in our home. Margaret died of a stroke and complications of multiple sclerosis on Dec. 7, 2004, with me at her side.

Gay Patriot has a post from May 18 about Carrie Prejean, same-sex marriage and civil dialogue — my comment in reply is so long that I am posting it here first:

The rights that come with legally-recognized marriage are so many and various that it will never be possible to stipulate all of them in legal contracts. How, for example, will you contract for spousal privilege?

Each and every one of these rights was passed into law for the purpose of providing the married couple with some form of advantage or support for almost every imaginable situation (e.g., property ownership, responsibility for debts, children, inability to make medical decisions, intestate death, post-mortem funeral arrangements, divorce, etc.). For example, when my mother was dying, all my father had to do to take over making her medical decisions when she could no longer maker her own was to identify himself as her husband. However, whenever I took my late life partner of over 20 years, who had multiple sclerosis and was paralyzed, to the doctor or hospital, I had to show up with multiple copies of her durable medical power-of-attorney AND know the law on how to use it. (I had to bring multiple copies to fend off claims that the one I had already presented and gotten inserted into her chart was “lost.”)

The requirement for lesbians and gays to have to pay a lawyer and create these contracts is a heavy tax of both money and time that heterosexuals do not have to pay. Furthermore, the attorney can make mistakes. A respected lesbian attorney made my life partner’s will and told me that it empowered me to make her funeral arrangements. It did no such thing. We were lucky because I am a planner. When she was dying, I called a funeral home and found out that I could only make pre-mortem funeral arrangements for her using her general (financial) durable power-of-attorney. If I hadn’t had another attorney create one for her years earlier, I could not have made those arrangements.

Another unfair expense lesbian and gay couples must bear because they cannot marry is that they must buy separate insurance policies for their property. A gay couple who were friends of ours found this out the hard way when there was a fire in their townhouse in D.C. The owner of the house thought his policy covered everything in his home, including his life partner’s property. After all, his insurance agent said, “This policy covers everything in your home.” But it did not cover his life partner’s property, and his life partner did not have a renter’s policy so he lost everything. I call stuff like this the “gay tax.” This would happen to a straight couple who were living together, too — but they have the option to marry.

I notice that other gay bloggers and columnists and the commenters here do not come up with concrete arguments in favor of marriage equality for lesbians and gays as I have here. I believe there are two reasons for this. First, having marriage as an option shapes the entire lives of the people who CAN marry the spouse of their choice. Even when single, and from an early age, they imagine what their weddings and married lives would be like and they plan their lives to obtain those objectives. So withholding equality of marriage rights from lesbians and gays does an enormous amount to remove those objectives — and removing the targets does a great deal to remove the motivation for the behaviors that lead to obtaining those objectives.

Second, there don’t seem to be many lesbian and gay bloggers and columnists and opinion leaders who have had long, happy same-sex marriages. I have. And since my life partner was chronically ill and paralyzed, I had years and years of intense involvement with the inadequacy of legal contracts to provide the rights a marriage would have given me. (Although, ironically, because of the way health care is provided in the U.S., even straight couples in our situation are advised not to marry, or to divorce.)

I covered some of these points when I responded to something Bruce wrote with a post at my site titled, “You no playa da game, you no make da rules.” Just curious — is that post why you didn’t put my blog in your blogroll? I’ve had much more acceptance and dialogue with straight conservative bloggers, including one who is vehemently against gay marriage (also here — and see my reply here and my lampoons, which have been taken in very good spirit by their target, here and here), so I am perplexed, civil dialog-wise. I do hope it just got overlooked when you were busy and that we will be able to develop a good relationship despite our disagreements.

Cynthia

P.S.

I am going to post this reply at my site since it says a lot of things I’ve been meaning to post.

Update, May 20, 2009: Allahpundit has a “Quotes of the Day” post at Hot Air with video of libertarian Penn Jillette and Glenn Beck discussing whether or how much government should be involved in marriage. He includes a link to a disturbing story about how differently two lesbian couples — who presented the appropriate medical powers-of-attorney — were treated than straight married couples when one of the partners was suddenly stricken. I will write a separate post about that later today.

Update, May 20: My reply to a couple of comments responding to my comment above at Gay Patriot:

I see ILoveCapitalism defines anything he doesn’t like as not existing, for example, my concrete arguments for why lesbians and gays should have marriage equality. Nice try, no sale.

Both ILoveCapitalism and The_Livewire prefer to frame the conversation about marriage equality for lesbians and gays as a “worthy” (heterosexuals) vs. “unworthy” (homosexuals) argument. The foundation of all the “worthiness” arguments is the couple’s ability and propensity to make babies for the purpose of enriching and empowering a religious group or coalition and/or a political entity (government, dictatorship, whatever). Where is the Constitutional rationale — federal or state — for forced babymaking?

I think the equality approach is the one that resonates with the most people.

I have added a link to my post of my reply here at my site, which leads to a story about two lesbian couples who HAD the right legal documents and were still denied the opportunity to be together when one partner was suddenly stricken and died. I was able to avoid this because I had years of experience in using these documents. The medical professionals have tons of experience in thwarting people with durable medical powers-of-attorney and if you don’t know exactly how to navigate through their obstacles, you are in the same situation as if you had no legal authority at all. In contrast, married straight couples don’t have to show their marriage licenses to have full authority to make medical decisions for their spouse when the spouse can’t.

I am skeptical of arguments in favor of civil unions as a “separate but equal” marriage status for homosexuals. To make this happen requires that state legislatures pass the necessary laws for equivalency AND that they do so in a timely manner.* Being a state legislator is a part-time job in almost — or every, I forget — state legislature. Most state legislatures only meet for a few months from January to March or April, as if we were still an agrarian society. Some, like Texas, only meet every other year. It is inevitable that there will be some grandstanders who want to hold equality for gays hostage, or defeat it, whenever any of the civil union equivalency bills are proposed — and that they would be successful. Homosexuals therefore need to be written into the marriage laws as they currently stand. There is no other practical way to ensure marriage equality.

*There is the added consideration that once a law is passed, there is still a lag before it goes into effect because regulations must be promulgated to stipulate exactly how the law is carried out. Simply on the basis of being out-of-sync time-wise, civil unions have no chance of being equal to marriage.

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  • Let me start by saying that I have no problem with gay marriage.
    (I have a bit of a problem with the gov’t. being in the marriage business at all, but that’s a different subject.)
    You note that you don’t see a lot of “lesbian and gay bloggers and columnists and opinion leaders who have had long, happy same-sex marriages.” This makes me curious about all sorts of things.
    For example, since gay/lesbian relationships were forced into a sort of underground for so long, do you think this has had an affect on gay/lesbian attitudes toward marriage? Do you think that the gay/lesbian culture has new or different ideas to bring to the concept of matrimony?
    I’d guess most homosexual persons are the product of heterosexual marriage, and I’m just wondering if there are some hybrid ideas about things like monogamy and marriage that are a by-product of seeing-literally- both sides of the couple culture.
    Do you think gay/lesbian marriage would add any new ideas to matrimony? Just curious.

    Please accept my condolences for your loss. My own partner and I have been together 17 years- the only difference is that he’s well- a he.

    • Lynn,

      Thank you for your condolences and support for gay marriage.

      Regarding the effect of lesbian and gay relationships being “forced into a sort of underground,” I don’t think it has had an effect on the attitudes of lesbians and gays toward marriage in general. I do think it has had a devastating effect on lesbians and gays individually, and as a group, just as I said in my post, because the possibility of marriage gives you a goal to strive for and that changes your choices and behaviors in innumerable ways for the better. These benefits then stream into your marriage and to society in general. Straight people take these innumerable micro-advantages for granted. Without marriage, we don’t have them. That makes it difficult both to BE a person capable of a long-term, committed relationship and to FIND a compatible person with comparable relationship skills. This makes it much tougher for us. Anyway, I noticed that the discussion by lesbians and gays of gay marriage seemed abstract in many cases, while all my concerns were definite and particular because I had to be so involved in advocating and caring for my life partner over such a long time — which was my bliss, by the way, I always felt fortunate to be with her and that she was a miracle and I told her so every day.

      Regarding whether same-sex marriage would add new ideas to matrimony — no, I do not think there are any new ideas or permutations to add. In advocating same-sex marriage, all we want to change is the choice of spouse.

      Cynthia

  • Hey, thanks for the detailed answer.
    I asked because I moved from a small town in the Northeast to a medium-sized town in the Deep South to get married, and was totally shocked by the differences in marriage models. Seemed like nearly everything I took for granted about married life was turned upside down.
    Similarly, my husband has close family members from all over the U.S. and was raised in an assortment of places all over the country- he’s nearly as well-travelled as a military brat! And I often notice that he brings and eclectic assortment of viewpoints to male/female relationships.
    So I find the whole idea of cultural context affecting marriage a really rich and interesting subject, sort of anthropologically speaking.

    On an empathetic note, I had an awful lot of trouble actually getting married to my husband (now mate of 17 years.) It was my second marriage and we planned to wed in his current town after I moved down.
    We both wanted a church ceremony but nobody would do the dirty deed.
    The first cleric we asked simply sniffed, “We don’t accept divorced people in our congregation,” and hung up. Another church leader snapped that I would have to be “examined by a bishop” and my “request” debated by church officials before a decision could be made.
    Church after church turned us down cold on the phone without even agreeing to meet with us in person. It was humiliating and infuriating.
    Eventually, my husband’s mother literally twisted the arm of a preacher friend of hers and all but forced him to marry us. And even then we had to submit to an “interview” to win his approval.
    We were married, eventually- by people who looked down on us.
    So I have some small clue.

  • Attmay

    I am as sick and tired of gays on the right who think being liked by them trumps our RIGHTS as I am of the gay leftists who think “big government is good government”.

    Yours is the best defense of gay marriage I have read anywhere. We need thousands of dollars in legal contracts to get what heterosexuals can get with one piece of paper. Is that equality?

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