DOMA should never have been passed. Proposition 8 is a hateful law. I am for neither of these. Love will out and both of these try to place strictures upon love. On the other hand, for me, the fight is simultaneously much larger and more subtle. Striking down DOMA and Prop 8 is not nearly enough. Allowing the US or state governments to decree what sorts of rights we have in our personal relationships doesn’t sit right with me, not just for personal reasons, but for political ones, too.
Here’s where I come out: I have two partners and have for 9 years. We live in community with a housemate who is a friend. There is also a woman who is beloved to me, though we don’t live in partnership. My partners and I talk sometimes about what sorts of legal documents we might need if one of us ended up seriously injured. What would be legally binding enough to allow us all visitation rights in a hospital, for example? We’ve heard the horror stories like the man locked out of the hospital room by the homophobic family of his beloved. He sat in the parking lot as his partner died.
Friends of mine are raising one another’s children as their own, yet have no automatic legal rights around their care in case of emergencies.
I personally know someone who cared for his partner for years as she struggled with ever more debilitating diseases. They thought they had done everything correctly. They had all the legal paperwork, including power of attorney. He was with her up until she died. The nursing facility would not release her body to him because they had never married. He loved, cherished, and cared for her for years, but it wasn’t enough. He had to fight for the right to bury her.
I stand for love, yet haven’t joined in very active support of what some people call “gay marriage” or others call equal rights because the struggle feels much, much larger. Fighting for the rights of my gay and lesbian friends to marry is on one hand a wonderful thing. I am for people making commitments and sacred bonds to one another. I am for all citizens of a country actually having equal rights under the law. To give one set of citizens rights denied to another set is illegal and unjust. However, for me, allowing two men or two women to marry one another just isn’t enough. It isn’t the sort of equality I really want. I’m more queer than that, and more of an anarchist, of course. I desire equity far more pluralistic than the simple replication of a state sanctioned nuclear family.
What right does government have to tell us what sorts of relationships are important to us, or what sorts of families we can build and grow together? We cannot build the society I want for us all – a society of comrades and friends, who care for one another’s children, who wipe away the tears of a friend we’ve had for 30 years, who share food and housing when times are tough or when times are very good – we cannot build this when we are intent upon saying that love is only important, and only has rights, when shared between two people.
Love is greater than that. We are greater than that. I firmly trust that we can work out how to love and whom to commit to on our own. If we want to write up contracts saying that the children of our best friend of 40 years can inherit our home when we die, we should have the right to do so. If we want our girlfriend at our bedside in ICU, that should also be allowed.
I recognize that I am talking about a restructuring of society. What else is new? It wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel, however. The nuclear family is a fairly contemporary arrangement. Extended families were the norm for centuries. People want to care for one another. We should be allowed to do so, as we see fit.
We can’t let hatred and fear win the day. Some of my friends want a state sanctioned marriage and I can support them in that. I just want to live my life as I choose, and not be penalized for the ways I happen to love. As usual, I’m playing a long game, and one that may not be realized within my lifetime.
Here’s the thing: what I really want is to build a new society with you. I have a vision of all the permutations of love expressed as a beautiful garden that can nourish heart and soul.
Striking down DOMA is one step toward my vision. It also isn’t nearly enough. What I already build with my friends, and with many of you, is what I want: families filled with friends of every sort, living in mutual support, building relationships based on respect and overflowing with love.
As I wrote two years ago, when the State of California was voting on Proposition 8: Desire knows no boundaries of gender, sexual expression, or love. God Herself is boundless, and potentially, so are we.
I will always support the striking down of fear and hatred. But I would rather build something with love, from the ground on up.
What is your vision?