I’m going to conjure up an alternative meaning to everydayleft today. I probably won’t do it often, but I think it’s an important day in our country. Some of you won’t agree with my position. I understand that we aren’t always going to agree on these things because of a number of reasons. We don’t always have to agree, but I hope that you continue to read and perhaps give this issue some thought.
As I was in the hospital preparing for and recovering from neurosurgery and learning that I had brain cancer, my husband was there by my side. Every possible minute. He asked the questions I couldn’t. He talked to the nurses and doctors about how I was feeling and whether I might need more pain medication. He regulated visitors when he knew I didn’t want or need the stress or confusion of company. He found a nurse who could wash the blood out of my hair before my children arrived for a visit after surgery. He held my hand and kept me reasonably calm when I needed reassurance in a scary situation – all while he was just as terrified and far more lucid and capable of processing what was going on.
All this and more, he was able to do because he was my husband – we’re legally married and heterosexual. I believe that because he was there, I stayed strong and was able to leave the hospital 2 days after brain surgery. He was my advocate, my strength, my anti-anxiety drug, my constant partner in an unexpected and unwanted adventure.
If my partner were a woman – if I were gay – she would not have had the same rights to be there holding my hand, advocating for my care, keeping me strong. She may have been less informed about what was going on and would have been more anxious as a result. I would have been more anxious as a result. My kids would have likely seen me with a terrifying amount of blood in my hair – scaring them even more than they already were as their mom lay in a hospital bed – seeming somewhat less than herself. The nurses may not have learned that Vicodin makes me hallucinate and, if they gave it to me for pain (they tried), could have presented ‘new symptoms’. They may have fed me food that made me ill – say cheese or milk. Maybe she could have been there, but it’s not a guaranteed right.
Legal marital status defines whether she could take Family Medical Leave to help care for me as any spouse would. It determines her rights to help make decisions about my medical care. My rights to medical insurance coverage are impacted. And that’s just in the hospital or during treatment. What about her rights if I die? Her rights as a parent of our children are currently defined on whether she is the biological parent. Her rights to survivor benefits are defined by our legal marital status – taxation, 401k rollover, social security, and more. Some say that domestic partner status is enough. It’s nowhere near enough.
It’s time for us to accept that Gay and Lesbian couples exist in our world. It’s time for us to give these couples the same rights as heterosexual spouses. It’s time for full equality.