Argument: Gay marriage is civil rights issue about ending hardships
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Scott Bidstrup. "Gay Marriage: The Arguments and the Motives": "When gay people say that this is a civil rights issue, we are referring to matters like the fact that we cannot make medical decisions for our partners in an emergency. Instead, the hospitals are usually forced by state laws to go to the families who may be estranged from us for decades, who are often hostile to us, and totally ignore our wishes for the treatment of our partners. If that hostile family wishes to exclude us from the hospital room, they may legally do so in nearly all cases. It is even not uncommon for hostile families to make decisions based on their hostility -- with results actually intended to be inimical to the interests of the patient! One couple I know uses the following line in the "sig" lines on their email: "...partners and lovers for 40 years, yet still strangers before the law." Is this fair? If our partners are arrested, we can be compelled to testify against them or provide evidence against them, which legally married couples are not forced to do. Is this fair?
In most cases, even carefully drafted wills and durable powers of attorney have proven to not be enough if a family wishes to challenge a will, overturn a custody decision, or exclude us from a funeral or deny us the right to visit a partner's grave. As survivors, they can even sieze a real estate property that we may have been buying together for years, quickly sell it at a huge loss and stick us with the remaining debt on a property we no longer own. When these are presented to a homophobic probate judge, he will usually find some pretext to overturn them. Is this fair?
These aren't just theoretical issues, either; they happen with surprising frequency. Almost any older gay couple can tell you horror stories of friends who have been victimized in such ways.
These are all civil rights issues that have nothing whatever to do with the ecclesiastical origins of marriage; they are matters that have become enshrined in state laws over the years in many ways that exclude us from the rights that legally married couples enjoy and consider their constitutional right. This is why we say it is very much a civil rights issue; it has nothing to do with who performs the ceremony or whether an announcement is accepted for publication in the local paper. It is not a matter of "special rights" to ask for the same rights that other couples enjoy by law, even by constitutional mandate."