Some people seem to think that because gay couples have the right in a free country to live together, the legal protections of civil marriage are unnecessary. They don't understand the legal power that homophobic families can have over sons and daughters - even adult ones in long-standing relationships. In Indiana, a couple who lived together for 25 years saw their lives turned upside down when one of them had an aneurysm and a stroke. His parents, who disapproved of his relationship, swooped in and barred his spouse from custody. The story is here. Money quote:

Conrad traveled to the Atlanta hospital to be with Atkins but was soon denied access by the family. Hospital staff defied the family's wishes and let Conrad visit Atkins during off-hours.
Atkins eventually was moved to a nursing facility in Carmel, where Conrad would arrive after regular visiting hours so the Atkinses would not see him.

He filed his guardianship request in June 2005. That November, the Atkinses moved Patrick into their home and have since refused to let Conrad visit. They also have refused his phone calls.

Atkins is in no mental state to defy his own parents. The law is on their side. Without marriage, it always will be. If a heterosexual who had lived with her spouse for two and half decades was barred from even seeing her husband after a stroke, no one would doubt the law needed to be changed. It is just as evil when it is done to a gay couple. Yes, there are some contracts that can be drawn up to provide more protection than Conrad is getting. But in states which have passed marriage and civil union bans for gay couples, those protections are vulnerable to legal challenge from other kin. Gay couples are human beings. To have our families ripped apart and have no legal recourse is institutionalized cruelty - designed for no other purpose than to stigmatize and marginalize a small minority. We need and deserve full equality now. Nothing short of civil marriage will ever suffice.

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