Gay Marriage IS an Important Issue

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With no big surprise, the Senate rejected cloture on a vote for a constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage. During this whole debate, I keep hearing people who are against the ban that this is a distracting issue and that government should focus on more important issues like immigration or health care.

I’d like to set things straight (no pun intended): banning gay marriage can be a distracting issue, but the issue itself is not. This is a REAL issue for those of us who are gay and either have or plan to have significant others. Listen to the story of a same sex couple living in Minneapolis:

In the spring of 2002 we experienced a life changing event that made us realize just how many rights and privileges we were denied as a gay couple unable to marry – the same rights and privileges that some married straight couples take for granted.

I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance and admitted with an extremely high fever and difficulty breathing. While the doctors and nurses were working with me, Jim stayed at my side answering the same question, “And who are you?” Over and over Jim explained that he was my partner and yes, we did have the power of attorney and health care directive that permitted him to be there and to make decisions regarding my health care. If we had not signed those papers just 2 weeks prior to my admission, he might have been prevented from being with me as I fought to live. As it turned out, I was diagnosed with pneumocystis pneumonia and AIDS. This was only the beginning of a long struggle to regain my health.

Since that time, we have done a lot of research into the marriage benefits we don’t have and how it affects us now that my health is such a large issue. Things like hospital visitation are covered with the health care directive and power of attorney as long as the health care facility has a copy of the paperwork.

If I need to quit my full-time job at DHS, I would not be able to get health care through my partner’s employer, also DHS. Neither of us would receive the retirement or death benefits spouses normally receive. If I needed nursing home care, the house we own together could be taken from Jim to pay for my nursing home care. If I die, Jim would not be able to claim my body from the morgue and my family would have the right to contest my will and try to claim my property because Jim is not “next of kin”.

I repeat: for gay people, this isn’t a distracting issue. It’s about life and death.

So to all my fellow bloggers and others: please stop saying things like, “let’s focus on other issues.” Because for people like me this is an important issue.

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