Living Memory

While the world may be getting more gay-friendly, there are plenty of politicians working to turn back the clock

It may be a sin of omission, but I haven’t yet made the leap into legal D.C. marriage. A lot of people seem surprised by this, especially family members who assumed that Cavin and I would have done the legal exchange of vows as soon as D.C. allowed it.

But given that my husband and I are Virginia residents at the moment, I haven’t felt the pressing need to do so because, well, you know: Virginia. There’s just not that much that a legal marriage certificate from the District — or anywhere else in the country — would do for me at home. If, say, a Virginia hospital decides not to accept the power of attorney and such that I’ve granted my husband, saying ”We’re married in D.C.” isn’t going to change anyone’s stance.

This is, of course, thanks to both the federal Defense of Marriage Act and the amendments banning same-sex marriage that pepper the majority of our nation’s state constitutions. But this fact, even among my own fairly conservative family members, is strangely invisible to many people who seem to believe that with marriage in Massachusetts and the ever-imminent repeal of ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that things are just peachy now for LGBT people.

Then you run up against stories like the one out of Indiana this past week, where the body of one of the victims of the terrible state fair stage collapse — who happened to be a lesbian — was in temporary limbo when the coroner at first wouldn’t release it to the woman’s partner (the Illinois couple had an Iowa wedding planned for this fall).

It’s a surprising story for the public at large, yet one we all know well from our own experiences of slights and barriers and discrimination in our own lives and the lives of our friends and LGBT families. And even in the midst of celebrations of victory and the knowledge that our long-term victory seems inevitable, we have to keep telling these stories to those who think the world has become a suddenly gay-friendly place.

Lest anyone forget, those who would make the world far less friendly for us have been continuing their push to demonize and stigmatize our lives. Newt Gingrich, whose campaign for the Republican presidential nomination is built in large part on his fancy of being a public intellectual, blamed gay marriage for the country’s economic woes. Maggie Gallagher of the gay-hating National Organization for Marriage has managed to get the major GOP candidates to sign a pledge committing to the formation of ”a presidential commission on religious liberty to investigate and document reports of Americans who have been harassed or threatened for exercising key civil rights to organize, to speak, to donate or to vote for marriage and to propose new protections.”

Rick Perry and Mitt Romney are both strict federalists who oppose the intervention of D.C. in state affairs, unless it involves homosexuals, in which case the more anti-gay federal intervention the better. Michele Bachmann soft-pedals her anti-gay history, saying she’s not running to ”judge” anyone, yet says she would reinstate a ban on gays and lesbians openly serving in the military.

And let’s not even touch Rick Santorum, since we all know where that’s been.

So, no, things aren’t peachy and we can’t afford to forget it. One of the best ways to do that, as always, is to live our lives as openly and proudly as possible. I may lack a marriage license for the moment, but it doesn’t make Cavin any less my husband. And no matter how much we’re targeted by politicians for being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, it doesn’t make us any less human. Or American.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.

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