A reader writes:
I am an American expat in Italy, and I share the perspective of your other reader. There is a widespread assumption among people in America, and in Italy, that gay couples actually have most legal rights. My expat situation, thank goodness, has been facilitated by a huge multinational company, so my employer has been very supportive of doing everything possible to keep me and my partner together.
The surprise? The HR people that have been handling this all assumed that the US Government and the Italian Government would treat us as a couple! Here you have human resources PROFESSIONALS, on two sides of the Atlantic, who didn't realize that the laws of two major Western democracies abandon some families to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
In the end, the hard work of my heroic colleagues in HR have given us a modicum of household security. But they should have known that a bit of heroism would be necessary.
These readers are onto something. Most heterosexuals do not understand that it's illegal to get married in 49 states in the US for gay couples; they don't understand that even if you have a legal contract with your spouse, your legal next of kin can and will challenge it, if you die or get sick; most heterosexuals have no idea that America bars gay spouses from immigration, and bars all HIV-positive non-Americans from even entering the country (a policy that the Bush administration, for all its action on AIDS abroad, has not changed in eight long years).
The main reason for this, I think, is not so much homophobia, as the fact that most heterosexuals simply cannot imagine falling in love with someone, and being told by their own government that they cannot marry him or her. The experience of gay couples is simply beyond most straight people's experience. If it happened to any of them, there would be outrage. Splitting husbands from wives, tearing children apart from their parents, using government to attack and punish and stigmatize family life: it's unimaginable. And yet, with gay couples, it's the law. And it's government policy. And one political party routinely celebrates attacking and demonizing gay couples and using every legal tool to undermine our families and relationships.
Which means we have much, much more work to do. And only gay people can do it.
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