My Parents Had A ‘Commitment Ceremony’ — Not A ‘Marriage’
My parents are gay. They had what was called a “commitment ceremony” before I was born. Marriage before baby is not only accepted in our society but what is expected. However as a homosexual couple my parents “commitment” to each other was not recognized as a legally binding “marriage” in the state in which they were born or the country that they call home. Because of that they are denied the same rights and privileges that heterosexual couples enjoy freely everyday, including the rights of a parent. The need for nationwide marriage equality and the end to unequal treatment to more than 130,000 same sex couples nation wide, according to the 2010 census, and an estimate 4 million homosexuals nationwide, according to The Huffington Post in April 2011, is long past due. We cannot become the country we profess to be if we continue to deny legal citizens legal and constitutionally protected rights, and then continue to dismiss the issue by calling apples, oranges.
The Defense of Marriage Act, more popularly called DOMA, was enacted September 21, 1996; President Bill Clinton signed it into effect.
DOMA defines marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman.
That means that our country under whose founding document, the Declaration of Independence, which states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable right, that among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” is denying about 4% of its citizens their human rights.
As American citizens raised with that belief in mind that all people are born equal in our country, that fact alone should shake our beliefs to the core. What right have we as human beings who share this earth to deny our family and friends their God given right to happiness? If you profess to be a good Christian and yet espouse hate, I think you are missing God’s message. Let’s say my interpretation is wrong and you want to take the bible literally, well if you want to do that and use that argument as your reason against homosexuality and marriage equality then in order for that argument to valid you must prove that you take every other aspect of that book literally – every single word of it.
If you had sex before marriage, you should be stoned. If you touched a woman on her period, mixed cotton and wool, got a divorce, ate dairy with meat, have a tattoo, than your argument is instantly invalid. But let’s make things easier and simply remove God from the equation. We are not talking about God’s laws, we are talking about man’s; and in our great country, we believe in the separation of church and state. We believe that religion should not influence our laws – something else we seem to have forgotten, but that is an issue for a different day…
When DOMA was first enacted, it made the deprivation of my parents human rights legal in the eyes of the federal government. Section 3 of DOMA Denies the recognition of same sex couples for all federal purposes including insurance benefits for government employees, social-security survivors benefits, and the filing of joint tax returns.
When I was 7-years-old, I broke my arm roller-skating at a friends house. My mother, Sue was the first there to pick me up and she took me to the hospital. While she was filling out forms, they took me back for X-rays. The hospital staff would not let her back with me, she was not my biological mother, she was merely my mother’s partner, and while at this time she had legally adopted me, she had no proof of it.
The woman who had helped raise me for 7 years had no rights to me at the hospital.
But whether legal or not in the hospital’s eyes, you do not get between a mother and her hurt child, so after a loud argument and a sympathetic nurse, she was allowed into my room. It could have ended badly — after all, she had no proof of the adoption on her, and the hospital was too concerned about covering their butts from a lawsuit. They could have asked her to leave the premises, and if she would have refused, they could have pressed charges, or worse, have had her arrested. All of this could have happened to a mother the state did not recognize for want of proof. However, there are many other cases of this happening when the partner has no legal rights to a child they helped raise from birth. A heterosexual step-parent has more right to a child they may have met much later in life, than a parent around since birth.
My parents at this time were also actually going through a divorce, but my biological mother, Jo, had made sure the adoption was final. Sue after all was still my mother, no matter what the state said and Jo did not want the state in her family’s business. Jo wanted to make sure the Sue adopted me because if anything happened to her she wanted to make sure that custody and all other parental right were transferred to Sue no matter. Without a legal adoption, a child will not go to the partner but the closest blood relative. It was not and still is not unheard of when a biological parent died for the child to go to a blood relative that would deny the partner access to their child.
In our country, it is our obligation to care of our citizens, especially our children; the state will remove a child from an abusive home, but since when did simply being homosexual constitute child abuse? Section 3 of DOMA has since been ruled unconstitutional and repealed, but true, full national marriage equality is still lacking.
We are fighting it state to state, but that fight should not be necessary. Prejudice should not make and define laws, truth, fact, and reason should make laws.
In 1997 the General Accounting Office, or GAO, found “1,049 federal statutory provisions classified in the United States code in which benefits, rights, and privileges are contingent on marital status or which marital status is a factor. The GAO updated this number in 2004 and found that the number had risen to 1,138. The GAO found: “with respect to social security, housing, and food stamps recognition of the marital relationship is integral to the design of the program(s)”. How can our country, whose founding principles of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, have wandered so far from its roots as to deny over 10 million of its citizens more than a thousand rights and benefits because of its refusal to recognize and accept the happiness of its citizens.
All my life people have asked me question about my gay parents, and I have answered them openly and honestly. We fear what we don’t understand, and ignorance begets hatred; and so I welcome each of these questions as a step away from fear, ignorance, and hatred, and a step towards tolerance and acceptance. But it is 2013, African Americans have earned the right to vote and marry whom they want, women have won the right to vote and are no longer considered legal property of their husbands. While marriage equality is not the last battle for human rights being fought in this country it is an extremely important one. I sincerely do not understand why we find it so difficult to understand that who we love does not separate us or make one group less human than another. We have learned that skin color does not define us, that gender does not define, so why do we allow love to define and segregate us? That hatred that bias that single mindedness is the true abomination, not my parents.
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