Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Survivors Benefits

Click the link.  It will open in a new window and you can view the video that has me so fired up right now.
This is why, my friends, that gay marriage is so important to us and why civil unions really just don't cut it.  These two people had domestic partnership rights and were registered with the state of California, but when his partner died, this man lost his home because he couldn't afford to pay their bills on his own.  Even as a gay person, even as a gay rights supporter... I had no idea.  I had no idea that civil unions were as piecemeal and BULLSHIT as they are. This video breaks my heart and I really, really hope it strikes a chord in someone to step up and do something for change.  I know it has me.  I'm going to start looking into being an activist instead of simply a supporter.
Civil Unions are no more recognized as marriage than wearing a ring on your left third finger.  People may assume that a civil union or a ring on the appropriate finger means marriage.  However, civil unions are a glorified way of pacifying people in order to make them sit down and take what the state will afford them.  I'm honestly surprised they haven't come along and taken AWAY the right for gays and lesbians to have civil unions.
Civil Unions are just like many licensures  in the United States and are up to the state governments to decide what constitutes a civil union and for whom those rights are recognized.  Recently in the news, everyone has heard of Prop 8 that would "protect" the "sanctity" of marriage by providing that marriage would only be recognized in the state of California when it was "between a man and a woman".  Recently that law was overturned by the California courts and, within hours, an appeal was filed.  It's now going to the Ninth Circuit courts to be heard yet again to see if it is still deemed to be unconstitutional.  This bill, through the war of both sides, should make it to the Supreme Court of the United States and will be heard and, hopefully (even though I'm not counting on it), will be overturned and deemed unconstitutional through the entire country and gays will be afforded the same rights as everyone else.
I don't know about anyone else, but this really reminds me of all of the hub bub people had about interracial marriage.  It was still a hand-over-mouth gasp when someone dated someone of another race when I was in high school and it earned my best friend a few raised eyebrows when she married a black man when she graduated, but it's been seen as acceptable throughout my adulthood.  These laws that protect the right to marry between races has been legal in the United States since 1967 with the Loving vs Virgina case, 11 years before I was born and now 43 years after its passing. It took 40 years before people chilled out and realized that, in fact, marrying someone of another race did not rock the boat of marriage and cause society to come crashing down into a pit of annihilation, fire and brimstone.
My grandmother remembers people being completely up in arms about blacks having the right to marry whites and she also remembers when her friend who was black couldn't really be her friend because she was black and people looked down on them for it.  It's no wonder my grandmother, who stayed friends with her black friend, says that gay marriage is just the next thing that "idiot people have to stick their noses into as though it makes any difference on their lives".  My grandmother is an 81 year old woman and still going strong.
I have faith that, in 50 years when I'm an 80 year old woman, people will see that gays haven't caused the country to go falling down into a pit of screaming death and AIDS.  I will be able to look at my grandchildren and wave my hand with a scoff and say "Oh, it's just like that whole gay marriage thing we had to fight for when we were young" and I can whip out that gem of wisdom that my grandmother told me and say it's just another way for people to stick their noses in where they don't belong.  Like interracial marriage, however, we have a lot of work to do to take this through the court systems all the way to the supreme court and work our asses off to show that gay marriage should be legal for US citizens.  Civil unions just don't cut it.  People are being denied the same rights as married individuals, they aren't entitled to the benefits and hospital visitations given to people who are in a heterosexual marriage.
The thing that really bothers me, however, is that Loving v. Virginia was a court case that was overturning the Racial Integrity Act of 1924.  That means people were fighting for the right to marry against race for 40 years before that.  It kind of makes me appreciate that things have moved so "quickly" for gay marriage.  Considering that gay rights movements didn't really gear up until the 1950s and gay marriage didn't really become a hardcore issue until the 1990s, we've moved pretty far, pretty fast in 50 years.  Okay, by fast I don't really mean fast because that's a long time to be fighting for your rights, but given the alternatives, it seems that we're ahead of the curve by about 10 or 20 years.
Going back to the issues of civil unions versus marriage, the civil courts in California noted nine differences between the unions and marriage.  There are only five states not including California or the District of Colombia that recognize gay marriage.  Of those states, only New York, Rhode Island and Maryland recognize same sex marriages from other states.  Four states offer nearly the same benefits and rights to domestic unions as they would marriage.  If you'd like a breakdown, you can read it on the NCSL website.  The ACLU has decreed that they believe it unjust to deny persons the right to marry because of sexual preference and there are many ways to get active in the rights of GLBTQ persons.
I have yet to find a site that details out exactly what each state decrees are the rights of civil unions or domestic partnerships but I have found a Wikipedia article detailing the rights of marriage.  I'll continue to work on what each of the states calls a civil union to try and find the differences between the two.
In the meantime, I believe I have exhausted myself on the subject for the time being and have a few links for anyone who, like me, has decided to get active in the fight for gay rights.