I sat in the emergency room vomiting large amounts of blood. It covered my face, my shirt, my hands — A bright red warning that something was horribly wrong. I gagged as a long tube was slid into my nose and down my throat, my heart was beating through my chest. At that moment, I knew I was going to die.
Several procedures and hours later, the doctor walked in with my preliminary diagnosis… metastatic malignant melanoma of the stomach. It was a rare death sentence with an imminent date of execution. The doctor left my room with a promise I would soon be introduced to an oncologist.
My life partner got up from a chair beside my bed, sitting next to me as he put his hand on top of mine, only a plastic band indicating my blood type separating us. “Look at me — It will be ok. I won’t let anything happen to you… I promise.” I will never forget those words as they came from my partner, who had been there by my side, watching the horrors as they unfolded. I don’t know why, but in that moment I believed him.
I would wish this experience on no one, but for those who are faced with it, I can only hope they know the same love I felt at that difficult time. I can do it no justice in words.
Reliving this real-life nightmare brings tears to my eyes even today. It happened many years go now, my malignant melanoma having either been miraculously cured by several months on Prevacid, or erroneously diagnosed by a doctor who mistook common ulcers for cancerous lesions. My partner ended up being right, everything did turn out ok.
While life has its ups and downs, he and I have been a team through them all. He was 21 and I had just turned 20 when we met, this fall we’ll celebrate our lucky 13th year together as a couple. Our relationship continues to stand as a bright contrast against dark stereotypes.
I promised myself a few years ago I would never again write an article on the topic of gay marriage. Having written so many and struggled for so long, I grew tired of the raw emotions that would well up as I put fingers to keyboard. Trying to convince others the love you have for your partner is real, and the relationship you share together has value, is not an easy task. I have always felt my attempts woefully inadequate.
Discrimination continued to have a significant impact on our daily lives, but those responsible for discriminating have always felt distant to me — Strangers who acted on misconceptions and a lack of real world exposure to the diversity which makes our country so great. But this week, I awoke to find those strangers had become far more familiar, and they were standing in my own backyard.
Without the fanfare and self accolades which accompany virtually every act by a politician, either large or small, my local representative Jim Christiana co-sponsored legislation this week which would ratify bigotry in our state’s constitution. I can abdicate my responsibilities no longer — I can not remain silent as my government attempts to have those like me declared three-fifths of a man.
The “Defense of Marriage Amendment” is a contradiction of terms. There has never been a time in our country’s history when extending freedoms or rights to a minority segment of our population has made us anything but stronger as a nation.
Christiana has made no public statement on his endorsement of this amendment, but he has communicated privately with constituents via email about the matter. He professes a belief in the “sanctity of marriage being between a man and a woman”, assures the constitutional amendment he has proposed simply “reinforces the status quo.”
These are the words of a dogmatist, and of a coward.
Representative Christiana has chosen to forward the status quo of discrimination — A cause championed by one whose ambitions have carried him farther than his abilities — A journey far too short against the backdrop of a country still on its long march toward equality for all.
I am sometimes left to wonder what would have happened that night many years ago, if my partner’s consoling words hadn’t bared fruit… if my doctor’s prognosis had shown greater competence. While my fate would have been certain, that of my partner would have remained far less so.
General Powers of Attorney, Health Care Surrogate Forms, Cohabitation Agreements, gay couples are forced to spend thousands of dollars having legal documents drawn up to provide just some meager protections for their relationships. These are not contracts designed for partners in life, they are often easily challenged by third-parties in court, and they attain not a fraction of the over 1,600 protections “traditional couples” can achieve by spending fifty dollars and fifteen minutes at their local courthouse.
The reality of marriage, the one defined by civil code not godly prescript, is the reality of family healthcare plans, joint tax returns, and equal inheritance rights. It’s the reality of directing doctors to perform procedures when the one you watch over can not, the reality of burying a loved one when their time has come, the reality of staying in a home you worked together for a lifetime to build. It is a reality of two people who are devoted to caring for each other being left to do so, without sabotage by a government that constructs levies of nearly insurmountable hardship between them.
While politicians will never be able to legislate away the love my partner and I have for each other, these legal hurdles add a layer of uncertainty to lives otherwise grounded in commitment.
You see, through the eyes of the law, my partner and I remain strangers.