Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Marriage Ban Harms Real People

I read this on Dispatches from the Culture Wars and had to repost it.

"Yet another story that shows why not allowing same sex marriage causes real harm to real families.

'Janice Langbehn and Lisa Pond had planned to take their three children on a family cruise. The Olympia, Washington couple had been together 18 years and with their children were looking forward to the holiday.

But just as they were about to depart on the cruise from Miami, Florida. Pond, a healthy 39-year-old, suddenly collapsed. She was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami with Langbehn and the children following close behind.

But once Langbehn and the children arrived at the hospital the hospital refused to accept information from her about Ponds's medical history.'

Pond ended up dying and her partner and children had virtually no contact with her prior to her death:

'Langbehn says she was informed that she was in an antigay city and state, and she could expect to receive no information or acknowledgment as family.

A doctor finally spoke with Janice telling her that there was no chance of recovery.

Other than one five minute visit, which was orchestrated by a Catholic priest at Langbehn's request to perform last rites, and despite the doctor's acknowledgement that no medical reason existed to prevent visitation, neither she nor her children were allowed to see Pond until nearly eight hours after their arrival.

Soon after Pond''s death, Langbehn tried to get her death certificate in order to get life insurance and Social Security benefits for their children. She was denied both by the State of Florida and the Dade County Medical Examiner.'

This is not an abstract. This is a real family in a real crisis and they were treated abominably. And there is one and only one reason for that: anti-gay bigotry. Let's hear those "pro-family" groups defend what happened to this family."

I'm sickened. "Congratulations" anti-gay bigots in Florida and everywhere! In deigning to "protect" families, you once again have shown that you are doing anything but that. You should truly be proud of yourselves.

ADDENDUM: I'd like to add the following from a legal perspective. Same-sex couples in Florida are, for all intents and purposes, legal strangers no matter how long they have been together and even if they have raised children together. In explaining why the legal benefits of marriage are vital to protect the rights and dignity of same-sex couples, I have explained that it is necessary for same-sex couples to draft health care powers of attorney for each other- so they will be able to make health care decisions for each other in the event of something like this. (On Janice's blog, she explains that she and Lisa had these documents. But because they were not carrying these documents with them on their vacation, of course, the hospital staff denied Janice the right to see her partner. Seriously, who just carries around their advance directives with them at all times?).

One anti-gay man with whom I was arguing facetiously said something along the lines of "but heterosexuals should draft powers of attorney too, so there's no legal difference here." Simply put, he was wrong. And in the interest of contriving any possible explanation to oppose marriage equality, he blindly and perhaps willingly failed to see that the "default" rules on who gets to make decisions for someone who gets seriously ill are detrimental to same-sex couples.

Yes, all people regardless of sexual orientation should draft powers of attorney. But in many states, including the one I live, by default and without a power of attorney, married spouse's are already able to make health care decisions for an incapacitated spouse. The same is not true for same-sex couples because same-sex couples are legal strangers in most states (even the ones who don't proudly proclaim that they're "anti-gay"). What happened to this couple who had been together for 18 years is the abominable result.

And I really do place the blame on every single person who has ever voted against full marriage equality and who advocates against equal rights for all Americans. If you really do care about the human dignity of all persons, it's time to fucking act like it.

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