I Must Just Be Confused…

Originally @ Stanford Daily

Watching my spouse die in the hospital was pretty difficult. At least, I imagine it was pretty difficult for his family, who were there with him. After dedicating ourselves to spending our lives together, in sickness or in health, I couldn’t stand by his side in the hospital because I had no legal right to do so. I didn’t even have the right to make medical treatment decisions for him when he was unable to.

Being legally barred by hospital staff from comforting my spouse in his last hours was painful. It was especially tough because he wasn’t a legal citizen–we were unable to expedite his path to citizenship through marriage, a privilege granted to other, opposite-sex couples. His citizenship doesn’t matter now though–even if he had become naturalized, I would be prevented by law from obtaining his Social Security pension or other government benefits.

That was the least of our concerns. Even years after the ceremony, after living together for so long, he wasn’t allowed to put our house in my name without paying more taxes than he could afford. We were never allowed to transfer property tax-free or file our taxes together no matter how much we insisted on the legitimacy of our partnership or our lifelong commitment to each other.

The provisions we were never granted wouldn’t have mattered so much if we didn’t both lose our jobs when our employers found out we were each other’s spouses, because we had no legal guarantee of job security from prejudice. We lost our community center membership and were asked to leave our church, and never had any legal protection from discrimination. If it weren’t for the constant vandalism and disparaging letters we get, even that wouldn’t have mattered so much. But, as it is, we had no legal protection against harassment.

I guess none of this would have been the case if we were legally allowed to marry. But we weren’t.

They’ve told me all the reasons my spouse and I weren’t allowed to marry. And it makes sense. They told me that marriage is just for procreation; I guess that seems pretty reasonable. I’m just not sure why we don’t bar infertile couples and women past menopause from ever marrying. My neighbors were in their seventies when they got married to each other–I guess they’ll be expecting soon.

I heard that we need to come together as a society in order to preserve the sanctity of marriage. That makes sense to me. Divorce rates hover around 50 percent for all marriages (with 7.1 marriages and 3.5 divorces for every 1000 people.) I guess that’s not as much of a threat to marriage as my partner and I, though, who never contemplated leaving each other. I suppose people reneging on “as long as we shall live, in sickness and in health,” isn’t a threat to marriage’s sanctity.

People worry about my capacity to raise a child with my spouse. They must know something I don’t. I’m not sure what it is that makes me an inherently inferior parent, but I sure wouldn’t want to raise a kid if my spouse and I are incapable of doing so. I just wish someone would tell me why I can’t be a good father. But if the government agrees, they must be right.

They told me that it’s necessary to preserve important religious institutions. I agree. I wouldn’t want to ruin anything by corrupting sacred ceremonies like marriage. Or ritualistic sacrifice. Or public stoning as punishment for adultery. Or witch burning. I guess nobody cared about preserving those religious institutions though–protecting them must not have mattered as much as keeping me from getting married.

When I was young my parents told me that, when two adults love each other, they make the most important vows of their lives and pledge their commitment to each other through marriage. I always thought that would happen to me–but there must have been more stipulations than my parents let on. I guess the consensual love and devotion my spouse and I share don’t matter as much as our gender.

I feel like I’m in love–I have an unrelenting desire to share in the life of only one other person for as long as I live. But this can’t be love; at least not the way love is legally defined. I must just be confused.

I used to pray that I wouldn’t be victim to the feelings I had. I suppose whoever heard my prayers must have had more pressing matters to attend to. That’s reasonable, given that this is a lifestyle choice. I just wish it was a choice that<em> I </em>got to make–maybe then I could have avoided the ostracization and legal obstacles I’ve faced.

But at least the institution of marriage is safe from me.

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