Monday, April 04, 2005

Oppose the marriage amendment

The New York Times > National > Gay Couples File Suit After Michigan Denies Benefits:
[A]t stake, they said, are the health benefits that Ms. Schwartz, as Dr. Moltz's domestic partner, receives from Wayne State University, which operates the hospital.

"It is not a small issue to us," said Ms. Schwartz. "I have a thyroid condition. And a main reason we moved to Michigan was so I would be able to stay at home with the children."

In November, Michigan voters, along with those in 12 other states, approved legislation to define marriage as an institution between a man and a woman. On March 16, Michigan's attorney general, Mike Cox, took that one step further, ruling that passage of the constitutional amendment meant that gay and lesbian state workers should be ineligible for health benefits for their partners in future contracts.
Moltz works for the Children's Hospital of Michigan, which is operated by Michigan's State University system.

This is the sort of nonsense that could crop up here, if the marriage amendment becomes law.

Advocates for gay rights have argued since the amendment's passage in Michigan that proponents operated a kind of bait-and-switch on voters, pretending that they wanted only to strengthen the traditional concept of marriage when they were actually intending to roll back the rights that gay Americans have won over the decades.

"Personally, I think the conservative right wing has overstated their mandate, just like they did in the Terri Schiavo right-to-die case," said Dennis Patrick, a communications professor at Eastern Michigan University. He and his partner of seven years, Tom Patrick, are raising three adopted sons and two foster children. "Once people hear that benefits are being taken away, they don't like it. They say, hey, wait a second, that's not right."

Bait and switch is exactly right. How marriage is defined isn't the issue. Who can adopt children, whether gay couples can visit each other in the hospital, inherit property, sue for loss of consortium, etc. are the issue. Conservatives, unfortunately including the Catholic charity, Knights of Columbus, are hoping to establish an easy way to discriminate against gay people.

Someone found my previous listing of the privileges of marriage by searching for a distinction between discrimination and privilege. If the basic benefits of marriage are held to be inaccessible simply because someone is gay, then that's discrimination. If you can get the benefits by other means then they are privileges available to anyone equally. It's that simple.

Call marriage what you want. Argue over the appropriateness of the religious institution of marriage conferring secular privileges. But don't make the rights that come with love inaccessible to whole classes of people based only on gender. Let people have health insurance so that one person can stay home and take care of the kids. Let someone visit a sick lover in the hospital. Let a house pass from a deceased lover to the survivor without barriers. Let the person closest to a comatose patient make critical decisions.

Vote no on the marriage amendment.