Why Recognizing Marriage Equality Shouldn’t be Left to the States


Earlier this week, the administration of Research Medical Center handcuffed and arrested Roger Gorley because he was by his spouse’s side. Of course, there is more to this story.  Roger Gorley was handcuffed and arrested because, in part, the State of Missouri doesn’t recognize same sex marriages. Still more facts. Gorley’s spouse is Allen Mansell.  Gorley also had medical power of attorney, which meant nothing to the hospital and would not have been necessary to point out had Gorley’s spouse been a woman. Being married would have been enough to “allow” Roger Gorley to visit his spouse in the hospital.

In fact, administrators didn’t bother to look at the legal document because Mansell’s brother didn’t want Gorley there.

Did I mention that the hospital is owned by HCA?  Did I mention that Florida’s Governor Rick Scott owns HCA and that Bain Capitol is HCA’s largest shareholder?

David Badash of The New Civil Rights Movement has done an excellent job reporting on this story since it broke earlier this week.

As I read through Badash’s reports, I couldn’t help thinking about the many rights that “traditional” married couples can and do take forgranted by virtue of the fact that they are married. Things like the ability to be by your loved one’s side when they are in the hospital, or the right to have your loved one by your side. There is so much more involved than a tax matter .  Yes, there are financial realities, such as the aforementioned tax exemption, the ability to provide your loved ones with health insurance, and have joint ownership of the property and assets that you accumulate as a couple. None of this is about having a “free ride”   as one Republican recently suggested.

But as Roger Gorley and Allen Mansell’s story shows, being in a socially recognized committed relationship extends way beyond the equivalent of a corporate merger or getting free stuff. It shows why leaving it to states to decide who deserves civil rights under the U.S. Constitution and who doesn’t is unacceptable.

It’s knowing that you can be there to comfort your loved one when they are ill, or be comforted by them. Social recognition means that when you face the emotional anguish that comes with the love of your life facing illness, you won’t be subjected to humiliation by hospital administrators, who would otherwise only care about your ability to pay the inflated costs that come with hospital care.

It means that even if you didn’t have a medical power of attorney, hospital administrators wouldn’t kick you out of your spouse’s room, regardless of how an in-law may feel about you.

As David Badash pointed out, Mitt Romney’s financial connection to this hospital, in itself, has nothing to do with denying same sex couples the rights that heterosexual couples take for granted.  Except for one thing.

“But in the other hand, let’s remember that just last year, Mitt Romney said that allowing same-sex couples to visit each other in the hospital is a benefit — not a civil right — and he would let states take away that “benefit” if they want to.”

And back in 2004, Romney told a group of LGBT parents, ”I didn’t know you had families,” after they had spent half an hour in his office explaining what it’s like to raise a family without the benefit of marriage.”

The very notion of enforcing anyone’s rights under the constitution being dependant on the wisdom or ignorance of state governments is unacceptable and it’s un-American.  Can you imagine the reaction if a Democrat suggested that enforcement of the second Amendment should be left only to the states?

That brings me to another reason that recognizing same sex marriages extends way beyond finances, and for that matter, states’ rights. The same people who “have nothing against homosexuals” fail to recognize that same sex couples and their children are a family in every sense of the word. The children of same sex couples pay the price that comes with the sort of ignorance that Romney and other “conservatives” put on display when they claim that the child’s family really isn’t one.

Granted, recognizing marriage equality will not change ignorant minds, which possibly can’t be rectified with education or with a rare quality in today’s Republican Party, an ability to empathize with a family member who has “come out.”

However, laws are an expression of a society’s collective values (which can and do differ from those held by individual members of a society).  In this case, it’s about recognizing that same sex individuals and couples have the same civil rights as everyone else.  It’s about recognizing that they are, indeed, families in the eyes of the law and within laws that affect various aspects of our lives.

Image: PQ Monthly

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