A reader writes:
"Marriage means something," said one of the speakers. This speaker then told of the sudden death of his partner of thirty-four years. They had a trust; they had papers of all kinds; they had planned and prepared for every contingency - except for a lack of respect and regard for their 34 year commitment to each other. The funeral home insisted they could not cremate this man on the word of his partner of three plus decades; they needed an OK from a family member. No document, however legal, mattered on that loss and shock filled day after the unexpected death of this speaker's partner of 34 years - thirty-four years.
Think about that when you next hear that contracts and papers are enough and marriage isn't sacred or right for these people.
We are so often told by opponents of marriage equality that they do not oppose our right to have basic legal protections. What they do not understand, because they have never had to understand, is that without legal marriage, gay couples are always subject to the veto of family members who have more say over our spouses under the law than we do.
I remember a story told me during the AIDS epidemic. A man was visiting a friend dying in hospital. It was a grim scene, as it often was in those days. The next bed in the ward had a curtain drawn around it. And from behind that curtain, you could hear someone quietly singing. The man told his friend, "Well, at least that dude is keeping his spirits up, however sick he is." And the friend replied:
"Oh, that's not the patient singing. He died this morning. And his family came to collect the body. That voice you hear is the man's partner. The family didn't approve of his relationship and they have barred him from coming to the funeral and kicked him out of their shared home. That song he's singing is the song they called their own. It was playing when they met. He used to sing it to him all the time when he was dying."
"He's still singing it even though they've taken the body away. He's singing it to an empty bed. I guess it's the last time he feels he'll ever be close to the man he loved. They were together twenty years. The hospital staff don't have the heart to ask him to leave yet."
Until you have been treated as sub-human, it's hard to appreciate how it feels. We will not give up. And we will win in part for the sake of those who never made it to see this day.
This is what my faith teaches me, whatever the Vatican insists. Our love really is stronger than their fear.