Monday, January 30, 2006

A hypothetical

In reply to this post about the gay man who lost the ranch he shared with his partner for twenty-two years after his partner died, Unintentional Blogger (who just happens to be my brother) replied that the fact that the will was not done legally has some bearing on the issue. Okay, this is true, but is it what really matters?

This got me to thinking, so I hope you'll forgive me, bro, but I'm going to propose a hypothetical situation for us.

Let's say that I had issues with your wife, that I had deeply held spiritual beliefs that her beliefs and lifestyle conflict with. As your sister, I'm pretty unhappy that you married someone who not only lives a life I find sinful, but has you living your life that way, too. I am absolutely convicted on this: she is leading you down a path to doom.

Your reaction, I'm guessing, would be at the friendliest, "Thanks for your concern, but that's not what we believe and I love my wife and my family." "Piss off" or some variation thereof would probably be more appropriate if I kept insisting you shouldn't be with her.

Let's further say your children are not biologically yours. They're hers from a previous marriage, but they live in your home, you help raise them, and they call you Daddy. You love them and they love you.

You are a family, right? My opinion on the matter, however fervently held, is irrelevant, wouldn't you agree?

Now suppose you die in a tragic accident. And as a good, loving Christian with fervently held beliefs that your relationship was wrong to begin with, I sue your wife. And lo and behold, the courts find that not only was your will improperly notarized, but your marriage license is invalid because, oh, I don't know, pick a sitcom plot device. The minister who married you wasn't a real minister. You lied about your age. Whatever. So you and your wife were never legally married and your will is invalid. Your kids have no legal relationship to you, either. That makes me next of kin. I get your house and your estate and I kick your wife--oops, she's not really your wife in the eyes of the law, so lets call her your "roommate"--I kick her out with her kids and sell your house.

This is good and right and moral, right? YOUR opinion that you were a family, YOUR relationship to her and love for her, YOUR spiritual convictions don't matter. Only MINE. And I say your relationship was sinful and the law says it's invalid, so I win.

Does this sound right? That I should be allowed to force my spiritual beliefs on you and your family and punish you for not conforming to them?

What do you suppose Jesus would say to me even if I'm 100% right about the spiritual issue at question? "Well done good and faithful servant for following the letter of the law"? "Good on you for throwing a family out onto the street because they didn't fit YOUR spiritual definition of a good Christian family"?

I'm guessing it would be more along the lines of Matthew 23:23-28

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Benefits of Marriage

Saw this from the Center for Arizona Policy on the benefits of marriage.

An Ohio State University researcher has shown that individuals who remain married accumulate almost double the amount of wealth in their lives as single or divorced people. Divorce comes at a huge cost – instead of cutting wealth in half, divorced individuals on average end up losing about three-quarters of their assets. The study reinforces our conclusion that marriage makes the most secure environment for raising children.

You know what? I agree! Which is why I think it's unconscionable to exclude certain people from these benefits. Where in the study does it prove that these benefits are only there if the couple in question is a man and a woman? Why are we allowing families, especially with children, to be unprotected from others ripping them apart? If we believe marriage stabilizes society, then let's not stop people from entering into this stabilizing relationship if they so choose.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

The obligatory Brokeback Mountain review. Well, not really a review, more an impression.

It wasn't exactly what I expected. Much more... raw. And painful to watch in more places than the end, where I was expecting it to be painful.

Mostly it makes me think, no one should have to live like this. No one should have to live a lie because everyone else says "that's the way it is." No one should have to hide who they are and who they love and drag other people into the lie because if you don't, you're dead. Or shunned. Or separated anyway.

It is not okay for us to leave the world like this. This is is not how God's kingdom should look.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Why it matters

This is another one of those stories that makes my blood boil. A couple in Oklahoma fell in love. They lived together for twenty-two years, sharing a ranch. One of them had children from a previous marriage and the other became the kids' step-parent. When one of them died, the other lost everything because a court decided someone else was the legal next-of-kin because the couple happened to both be men and were not allowed any kind of civil recognition of their relationship.

How can this not be wrong?

I get that people think same-sex relationships are sinful. I get that the concept is squicky. But if two people decide to share a life together, they shouldn't have to go through legal hoops to try and protect their relationship only to have it thrown out because of a technicality just because someone else thinks it's icky. They loved each other. No one else's opinion should matter.

"They took the estate away from me," said Beaumont, who said he put about $200,000 of his own money into the ranch. "Everything that had Earl's name on it, they took. They took it all and didn't bat an eye."

Every state has common-law marriage rules that protect heterosexual couples. If someone dies without a will, or with a faulty one, his or her live-in partner is treated as the rightful inheritor.

This is why domestic partnerships and civil unions matter. This is why same-sex couples need to have the right to have their relationship legally recognized with all the same rights and obligations as marriage. This is why constitutional amendments that seek to deny these rights are so horrific. They hurt real people.

This is wrong and no amount of sugarcoating can make treating people this way the good and decent thing to do.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

"Family values"

My son has epilepsy. Because of this, he sees a pediatric neurologist every few months and has to get the occasional EEG at the hospital.

Contrary to the typical stereotype, Daddy is the worrier in our family, not Mommy. While part of my job as "stay-home mom" is to take the kids to their various doctor's appointments, my husband likes to take our son to the neurologist so that he's very clear on what's going on with that. Because of this, I've been there maybe three or four times total while they know my husband very well.

Once when my son was due for an EEG, the hospital called to arrange the appointment. A few minutes after I hung up, the woman from the hospital called back, sounding kind of sheepish. "I'm sorry, but I have to ask: are you the child's mother?"

This caught me off guard, but I answered that I was.

"I'm sorry, but do you have custody of your son?"

I've never been asked such a question. My husband and I are our kids' birth parents and we're not divorced, so there are have never been any custody questions at all. I told her I was and she told me that the neurologist had told her my son didn't have a mother.


Apparently the fact that they hadn't seen me in a while, only my husband, gave them the impression he was a single parent. After all, MOMS bring kids to the doctor, not DADS, unless there is no mom. My son's paperwork also only had my husband's name on it.

It was a very weird feeling to have my relationship to my son called into question. Fortunately, it only took a phone call from my husband to straighten everything out and then a trip to the neurologist to fill out new paperwork. No harm no foul and we all had a good laugh over it, but for twenty minutes, I was not allowed to make health care decisions for my own son.

This past weekend, I met a woman who lives this every day.

She and her partner have a young son. He was born in California, where second-parent adoption is legal. The boy is her partner's birth son, but her name is also on the birth certificate.

Recently, they moved to Arizona and she told me about what a culture shock it was, coming to a state where two parents of the same gender cannot be recognized as legal parents. Once when her son had to take a trip to the emergency room, she rushed from work to go see him. When she arrived, they asked her relationship to the child.

"I'm his mother."

"Uhhhh... his mother is already in with him."

Okay, yeah, I get that this would be confusing and even amusing. At first. Twenty minutes later when they still wouldn't let her in to see her son, it's no longer amusing. It's outrageous.

This woman is the boy's MOTHER in every sense of the word that matters. She was there when he was born. She's been raising him. She takes care of him when he's sick and comforts him when he's sad. She plays with him and teaches him. Her partner recognizes her as the (other) mother of her child. The boy calls her Mommy. She calls him her son. These are the ONLY THREE PEOPLE whose opinion on the issue matter. It is no one else's business. And yet, somehow we're supposed to be proud of our "family values" by denying this woman the right to make decisions for her son. By denying a frightened child in the emergency room both his parents, we're "putting children first." By making it so that when one parent is too emotional to want to deal with the hospital paperwork, the other is not allowed to step in, we are upholding "good morals."

I'm furious. The more stories she told me, the more furious I became. This is just so wrong in every sense of the word. What we are doing to families by insisting they can't be families unless WE say they are is nothing short of immoral. We're stealing from this child and we're stealing from his mothers--BOTH of them. And we're calling that "pro-family."

Shame on us.

Is it just me...

...or is this a little bit on the squicky side?

Christopher Knight and Barry Williams, who played clean-cut brothers Peter and Greg Brady, respectively, on "The Brady Bunch," will portray gay lovers on "That '70s Show."

Don't get me wrong. I can't wait to see Brokeback Mountain. I think we need to see gay love stories; I'm all for it. But Greg and Peter Brady? With each other? Ewwwwwww! I mean, Greg can be gay and Peter can be gay and I could be totally on board with that, but in the hearts and minds of, well, pretty much everyone who grew up on The Brady Bunch, they're brothers. (And for the record, I wouldn't want to see Greg and Marcia make out either, even though technically they were step-brother and -sister, and don't even get me started on the ew factor for all those rumors about Barry Williams and Florence Henderson. Ew ew ew ew ew!!)

Yeah, I know, the actors aren't really related. And it's That 70s Show. They're totally going for the squick factor. But still. I think I'll pass.