Goin’ To The Chapel
If you are gay and want to get “married,” what’s holding you back? Go get married! This idea may come as a surprise to many heterosexuals out there who do not know that gays can get “married” in every state in the union. How can this be? Hasn’t the Religious Right won every electoral battle on this front and thwarted any efforts on the part of gay Americans to get married? The answer to the last question is an unequivocal “YES!” Let the confetti fly!
Did they, that is the Religious Right, overlook some loopholes in their draconian laws of prohibition? Not even ONE! So, Jack, you say, how can gay couples get “married” in every state of the union? It’s a very simple matter. Go to the nearest Gay Christian Church—that will most likely be in your nearest big city—and get married. There are even some “accepted” Christian sects that will marry you. Surprise, everybody! Okay, okay, perhaps I overstated the simplicity of the process.
Most people would be surprised to learn that most gay Christian churches place restrictions on access to marriage. One of those restrictions in most of them is a requirement that the couple live together for at least a year before the ceremony. Now, that is not exactly comforting to Christian fundamentalists who would never allow their members to “live together” before marriage, if they knew about it. Well, not exactly. But they certainly wouldn’t encourage such a thing.
Many gay couples have been married in these ceremonies, and many, many more have had private ceremonies with ring exchanges and begun considering themselves “married.” This is much the same as a common-law marriage in many states, Texas being one of them. In Texas, heterosexuals are considered common-law married if they so much as refer to one another as husband or wife to their friends. Interesting, huh? As regular readers of my blog know, I had a relationship some years back with a man I loved. It lasted five years until his death some 12 years ago. But what I haven’t written about in the past is the fact that we had a small private ring-exchange ceremony on New Year’s Eve 1992. It was caught on film by my beloved Mrs. Jack who has always been there for me. For those who would cry “bigamist,” since it wasn’t “legal,” it didn’t count. But from that day forward we considered ourselves married and wore our wedding rings everywhere except at work.
During the five years of our “marriage,” we made an annual trip to Europe. We always went on escorted tours where we were the only gay people in the group. We also proudly wore our wedding rings. It was always interesting watching the other members of the group as they figured out our status along the way. Some seemed to recognize us as a couple almost immediately, but others would slowly come to the realization that we weren’t just friends or cousins or anything other than what we were. The heartening aspect of these wonderful experiences was the fact that nobody ever treated us disrespectfully once they figured out the truth. And we never revealed our relationship to anyone by word or action from beginning to end. We just allowed our fellow travelers to know us as people and then know us as the gay couple we were.
Yes, we should take “Gay Agenda” away from our opponents and use it to our own advantage. There is nothing wrong with having an agenda, but it is important that we set our own agenda and not let others define it for us.
In our travels we sought out gay bars and restaurants in the cities we visited to mingle with other gays. On one of our trips, the men of the group approached us near the end and asked if they could join us on one of our evenings out. We told them that we weren’t sure they would really enjoy the places we went, and they graciously let the subject drop. But what I really took away from these experiences was that people from all over America, from Arkansas to Chicago, were not offended by our presence in their midst. But we were always respectful of them and did not push ourselves and our “lifestyle”—I hate that word—onto anyone. I think that is important.
What I am observing all these years later is a different atmosphere in the US than the one of my past. It seems that a vocal minority has taken up the cause of not only resisting any moral acceptance of homosexuality, but is actively engaged in passing or renewing laws that make our very existence illegal. They have seized the airwaves and the blogosphere to promote their agenda of hate against us. It is regrettable, but not unexpected. I still feel, however, as I wrote last week, that engaging in a debate with the far right is a useless waste of our energies. So, my friends ask, what should we do?
After much thought on the matter, I have concluded that we should embrace the tag our opponents have given to our movement and say, “Hell, yes! We do have an agenda. And our agenda is equal protection under the law.” Yes, we should take “Gay Agenda” away from our opponents and use it to our own advantage. There is nothing wrong with having an agenda, but it is important that we set our own agenda and not let others define it for us. The American public is constantly being bombarded with the silly argument that the Gay Agenda is to end heterosexual marriage in America. Is that what we are trying to do? Not by a long shot.
What we are trying to do is to get the benefits that inure to one’s legal partner (spouse) with regard to civil law. It’s interesting to me that the party of “no taxes”—that is, the GOP—is particularly against any sort of tax break that may come to gay couples who are married. It would appear that the party of “get the government of our backs” is more than willing to put its full pressure onto the backs of gay Americans.
The GOP continues to use us as a political football to court the Religious Right and to persuade them to support the GOP in their promotion of their real constituency—a very greedy capitalistic upper class who is draining the lifeblood out of our nation’s economy. We are simply a diversionary tactic in their push for power.
But I digress. Where are we going wrong in our push for equal rights under law? What can we do to turn the tide of public opinion in our favor? I see a couple of things that we would be better off doing. One is to drop our fixation on the word “marriage.” As I have pointed out, if that’s what you want, go get married. What we really need is equal protection under law.
If you are a gay person in a committed relationship and have a job with benefits, your spouse should be eligible for those benefits just like any other spouse. It is easy to see how the insurance industry might have a stake in denying us our civil rights. Just a thought. When my beloved passed away, I was prohibited by law from converting his 401k into one for me, although I was the rightful beneficiary. DOMA forced me to cash it out at considerable penalty and negative tax consequences. If I had been his “wife,” I could have rolled it over to myself tax free and secured a better retirement for myself. This shouldn’t happen to us just because we are gay.
There is much made of the right of a gay partner to visit their loved one in the hospital and have a say in their medical care. As I went through this, it was a different world. We had been able, by will and living will, to cover our rights to take care of each other and secure inheritance from a family that would have swooped in like scavengers had I not been protected.
When the Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment was passed in Texas some five years ago, it nullified any such agreements entered into by consenting adults. If a family wants to take the possessions of a gay couple away from the surviving “spouse” upon death, all they have to do is go to the courts of Texas and “get ‘er done!” It’s a huge violation of the civil rights of gay persons to prohibit us from making our own decisions about our lives and estates.
So I present these few examples of legalized prejudice by the majority against a minority population in our so-called free Nation to illustrate that our oppression is real! And once again, we are left with plotting a course to reverse this discrimination against us. In my opinion it all begins with us. We must realize what we need as opposed to what we want. I know many of my fellows want to say to their families that they are married. But I assure you whoever in your family doesn’t agree with it, may never accept it. What we need is for the various governmental entities of our nation to recognize our couplings, or dare I say unions?
I know that many in the Prop 8 battle in California took exception to the idea of civil unions and pushed hard for “marriage.” They failed. And honestly they may have failed even if they had asked for “civil unions.” We don’t know. But the word “marriage” has become politically charged in our society, so much so that the Christian Right can unleash opposition that resembles a stirred up ant hill. With the help of Christian Broadcasting Network and FOX News, they have an advantage that we cannot match up against.
We are like a high school football team taking on a professional football team. We have not developed the muscle to overcome them. This will take time. But first we must commit to the cause no matter how long it takes. Nothing comes easy for minorities, but the ballot box has proven time and time again to be the last victory. It takes a well-organized PR campaign coupled with legislative and judicial action to succeed. So we must develop both. We must accept setbacks along the way and answer them with renewed vigorous actions. That’s the only course to victory for us.
We saw in last week’s news that a white JP in Louisiana refused to marry a mixed-race couple. In response to a complaint, the Republican Attorney General of Louisiana defended the JP by pointing out that while a mixed-race couple could be married now in Louisiana, there was no requirement that a JP perform the ceremony. So even laws can be loop-holed through by those in power who disagree with them.
This should send a message to all Americans that your civil rights hang by a thread in many parts of our nation, and we must all fight for them before they are taken away. Once again, I call upon all minorities to band together to assure that none of us is marginalized by democracy run amok in the form of a constitutional amendment denying civil rights to any particular group. If unchecked, these “amendments” can crop up anywhere against anybody.
And one last word to my gay brothers and sisters out there. When we prevail in our efforts, PLEASE, DO NOT rush out in front of the cameras planting sloppy kisses upon one another after your ceremony at the courthouse. Those pictures from San Francisco set our movement back 10 years. Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it. I advise those who would disagree with this advice to go spend the day out in front of your local courthouse and observe how many heterosexual couples come out onto the steps and plant sloppy kisses upon one another after getting married.
There is a time and place for everything. The time is when the conductor of the ceremony says, “You may kiss the [fill in the blank.]” Be happy in that moment and be grateful for those who are in attendance to celebrate your happiness. But, PLEASE, PLEASE do not force some religiously conservative mother to frantically rush from the kitchen to the den to keep her children from being “exposed” to your happiness on TV. She will rise up with her friends and smite you down if you do—and the rest of us in the process. All I’m saying is BE THOUGHTFUL and respect her right to believe what she believes as we ask her to respect our beliefs.
I’m Jack, and I am what I am.
“With Liberty and Justice for ALL”