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NOT GOIN' TO THE CHAPEL
15 February 2006
The song became the anthem of the group of gay couples who drove across the United States in 2004 to take their message to the heartland and to the capitol...that love knows no gender and that a percentage of their fellow Americans were being denied equal rights
Surprisingly, everywhere they went, they were greeted warmly and sympathetically, even in Salt Lake City, the home of Mormonism. They were, of course, ignored in Washington, D.C.
The group's message was simple--they weren't seeking to change any religious beliefs. All they wanted was the legal right to marry their life partner. I wrote extensively about the marriage caravan here and here and about the legal rights which were denied gay couples, which those of us who are legally married to "acceptable" spouses never even think about.
Last year I went with Ellen and Shelly to the County Recorder's office. It is a yearly exercise in futility--or perhaps an exercise in boosting awareness. Every year, several gay couples go to the recorder's office, ask for forms to fill out to be legally married. Every year, the recorder denies their request (the county recorder, Freddie Oakley, by the way, is very supportive and says she will be happy to give them a license when [note the operative term "when"] marriage for gay couples becomes legal). The media comes. The whole thing lasts about an hour and then everybody goes home, having once again been unsuccessful. I (and a couple of other non-involved people) go along to be supportive.
This year we were back again. Once more, several gay couples showed up, were given marriage license application forms to fill out, and then, when they attempted to file them, were denied. It's a ritual that everybody knows by now, but it doesn't make it any easier just because it's a familiar ritual.
I think there were only four gay couples who actually filled out license applications while we were there, but then they filed up to the desk and each was denied. When interviewed by a reporter afterwards, Shelly said she felt like "less than a person." Here she's been with this woman for more than 30 years but can't make a legal commitment to her.
A representative of Marriage Equality California had brought a flyer which listed some of rights which are unequal for gay couples in a committed relationship: access to health care through spouse's workplace; the right to custody of children after divorce; visitation rights for non-biological children; joint parenting rights, such as access to school records; burial determination after the death of a spouse; domestic violence intervention; sick leave to care for a spouse or non-biological child; ability to file joint tax returns; automatic next-of-kin status for emergency medical decisions and hospital visitation; bereavement leave after death of a spouse; prison visitation rights; immigration and residency priority for spouses from other countries; access to social security after spouse's death, etc., etc., etc. 1,138 federal rights and hundreds of state rights denied to same sex couples.
After the couples was each denied marriage licenses, they cut the cake anyway.
Then the protesters showed up. A group of very big, very burly, very "macho" looking men in heavy jackets carrying huge signs. They all appeared to be Russian and the scary thing about them was how hateful their faces were. They stood there holding their signs (in violation of the rule about bringing protest signs into the county office building). There was one woman and a couple of kids in the group and someone in our group offered the kids a piece of cake, but the adults wouldn't let them have any.
Ultimately, the police were called and told the protesters they weren't allowed to have signs in the building. One guy challenged the police officer but when he was told he would be arrested if he didn't leave, the guy who appeared to be the leader of the group intervened and told the beligerant guy to leave.
Our group all waved goodbye and wished them a happy Valentine's day. They told us we were all going to hell.
It was a lovely day.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Ellen and Shelly decided to fight fire with love.