I voted for you and continue to believe in you and support you. I’m asking for your support now. I understand you have a lot of things on your plate and a lot of priorities to juggle. I also understand that the gay rights issue is fraught with controversy and potential backlash. But please, if you really believe what you said on the campaign trail about speaking up for gay rights, don’t be silent anymore. People need to hear prominent figures talking about these issues. Your silence is deafening. Your silence is condemnation. Your silence threatens our families every day.
This is not about whether you morally agree with someone being gay or the definition of marriage. This is about whether you believe in the basic right of two consenting adult Americans to enter into a loving relationship and be fully protected under the law. We pay the same taxes to uphold those laws. We should have the same protections and rights.
I don’t think heterosexual couples can understand what it feels like to know you can’t marry the person you love. That you probably never will. You can’t hold hands in public in some places without at minimum shady disapproving looks of judgement and at maximum the possibility of bodily harm. You don’t know if the person you love and whom with you have spent the last 20 or 30 or more years of your life will get to stay in the house you have built together because a “family” member that never spoke to you when you were alive has decided to contest their ownership after your death. You can’t provide health care benefits if their job doesn’t offer it or if they lose their job, which is especially scary in this economy. (One of my prescriptions would cost me $900 a month without insurance. If my partner didn’t work for a company that chooses to offer partner benefits, I would not be taking it.) You can’t adopt at all in some states or even offer to foster any of the numbers of children who just need and want loving stable homes. You can’t visit each other at the hospital in times of crisis or illness, when you need the love and support of that person the most.
Many of us have no other family or have very strained relationships because of who we are and our decision to not hide in the shadows and pretend to be people we aren’t. As a result we have built our own families. These are people who don’t have to love us because of blood ties or last names. These are families that are often as strong , supportive, and stable as the families we were born into… Often stronger, more supportive, and more stable in some ways. And it seems to me that homosexual couples must actually have a stronger bond and level of commitment to each other than our heterosexual counterparts due to the inordinate amount of stress outside forces place on our relationships on a daily basis.
Think about it. What would your life be like right now if you and Michelle had not been able to legally marry?… Forget the flowery idea of a picture perfect ceremony and a special day that celebrates your love. That would be nice, but what if you couldn’t share all of the benefits, be it health insurance, tax benefits, parental rights, home ownership rights, and all of the other legal protections and the peace of mind that follows? What if you had to take the time, energy, and money to hire attorneys to draw up all of the countless documents that a simple “I do” on your part has ensured? What would that feel like to you? Would it feel ridiculous and wrong? Would you be sad, angry, and scared all at the same time? Because that’s how I feel every day. I don’t want to destroy marriage. I want to live in safety, security, and harmony with the woman I love. I want to not have to worry “what if” all of the time. I want everyone in our community, not just those who can afford attorney’s fees, to have basic legal protections and peace of mind.
I’m not asking the heterosexual community to give up anything. I am only asking to be counted as an equal to my straight counterparts and to allow any moral judgements to be left to whatever higher power there may be, as it should be. I am even more insulted lately by the hypocritical politicians who actively and fervently oppose this request every day. They work so hard to deny us the simple rights and responsibilities that they themselves not only take for granted, but toss on the ground and piss all over. They use morality, race, and religion as a wedge to divide us within our own communities. And these same people dare claim a moral higher ground and accuse the homosexual community of being a threat to their marriages? The heterosexual community is responsible for their own failures. Mark Sanford, for example, chose to cheat on his wife. It wasn’t my idea.
I understand and respect that different people have different beliefs. And I struggle every day to remember that. But hypocrisy, especially the odious glaring hypocrisy that is oozing on a daily basis from our opponents in this issue, is not something I can continue to bear. It’s not something you should ask me to bear, especially if you agree with me… even just a little. That’s the part I’m unclear about.
You said on the campaign trail that you agree that gay citizens should have the same rights and benefits as straight citizens. I was standing in the crowd in Virginia weeks before the election and remember how ecstatic I was that you actually said the word “gay.” If you truly believe that, and you do not think it is your responsibility to make moral judgements about this nation’s citizens, then that should be the end of the argument. Whether or not it’s called marriage may seem like semantics, and in many ways it is. But that is also the point. Our relationships are either equal in the eyes of the law or they aren’t. If you want to start calling all unions civil unions and save the word marriage for religious ceremonies, I really don’t care. But as long as “marriage” is the common vernacular for treating commited relationships with respect, dignity, legal protection, and government granted benefits, then that’s what I want and deserve.
I understand it may be politically risky to stand up for what you believe. I am asking you to take that risk if hope, change, and equality are truly what you believe all citizens of this country deserve. I took a risk voting for the candidate without a lot of legislative or foreign policy experience, the candidate for change, the relative unknown, when I voted for you because I thought you weren’t going to play politics with some important issues. Please do the same for me now. Please don’t play politics with my family.
JD Warford, DVM, Silver Spring, MD