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Never Too Old to Demand Your Rights

Never Too Old to Demand Your Rights

I remember the day after the 2008 election, thinking that animals had more rights than I, because we had lost the battle to save marriage for everyone, but farm animals had won the right not to be caged. I also remember how, in 2004, when Mayor Newsom had proclaimed that same sex marriage was allowed in the city of San Francisco, I suddenly felt a part of something. Not that I really ever cared about marriage, nor ever wished to get married, but something opened up to me that I had not realized I was missing – being a full member of society.

Now, two years later, Federal Judge Joseph Tauro in Massachusetts ruled that a federal law, Judge Joseph Tauro in Massachusetts ruled that a federal law barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage was unconstitutional ( He also ruled that gay and lesbian couples deserve the same federal benefits as heterosexual couples.

This is significant in many ways as we await a ruling from the U.S. District Court regarding Perry v. Schwarzenegger. Can we hope, have faith, that slowly, surely, the discriminatory laws that block us from full rights as American citizens will be repealed and abolished?

During the San Francisco Pride Parade this year, I stood next to a woman who was there with her family – her partner, two children, sisters- and mother-in-law. As the gay marriage contingent marched by we talked about the issue. What she told me – that she thinks we should have the right to get married, but she’s not interested in fighting the fight – is something I hear frequently. This woman’s mindset was that gay marriage is a young person’s issue, and she was happy to let them fight it, just as she fought for rights for women’s equality during the ’70s and ’80s.

I understand what she’s saying, but it riles me to think that just because we fought for equality two, three, four decades ago doesn’t mean that we should sit on the sidelines for this fight. This is not about whether one wants to get married or not, it’s about the fact that the state and federal governments are denying American citizens certain rights. When I woke up on November 5, 2008, I was furious. As I said, farm animals now had more rights than me. Someone was telling me that I couldn’t choose to get married, that I couldn’t have the same rights and privileges of the rest of the country just because of whom I loved.

Here is a small sampling of some of the over-1,000 benefits, rights, and privileges afforded heterosexual marriages:

• Status as next-of-kin for hospital visits and medical decisions when a partner is ill or not competent to make decisions

• Protections during divorce proceedings regarding property and child support

• Immigration and residency for partner from another country

• Automatic inheritance in the absence of a will

• Automatic benefits of pensions, Social Security, Medicare, etc upon the death of partner

• Exemption from property tax increases upon the death of partner in a co-ownership of property

• Judicial protections and evidentiary immunity

• Family leave benefits

• Joint filing of taxes

• Joint parenting and/or adoption

(If you’d like to see the full report:

These points alone should be enough for you to care about this issue. Even if it just means that when your partner dies, you won’t have your home taken away, and that you can be the one to make a decision as to how to deal with your partner’s remains. Morbid, yes, but it is one of the many aspects of a partnership. In the end, this is why same sex marriage is important for us to care and be active about.

In the coming weeks, the Obama administration may appeal Judge Tauro’s ruling. It’s time the Obama administration live up to campaign promises to the gay and lesbian community, and not appeal this ruling. They should be working to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act as well as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. We should be pushing, yelling, demanding that we are all first class citizens and are included in the full rights, benefits, and privileges that every American is afforded.

Stand up and be counted. Demand your full rights!

Are you motivated enough to get involved? Here are some ways to get active, or just more information:

Courage Campaign

(The Courage Campaign is a great organization for getting involved and taking action, such as their Camp Courage workshops, in which attendees learn how to talk about marriage equality and work to overturn Prop 8.)

Equal Rights Advocates

Freedom to Marry

Human Rights Campaign

National Center for Lesbian Rights

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  • Joy Luster says:

    Go for it Shawn! I am glad that you have the energy and the insight.

  • Tisa says:

    Two steps forward, one step back… The Prop 8 flip-flop has been difficult but I have no doubt that we WILL prevail in obtaining equal rights for we queer folk. Like Cesar Milan (the Dog Whisperer dude) says when a dog goes crazy on the leash, “This is good! This is good! Now we have something to work with.” Remember that the Prop 8 hullabaloo is a GOOD thing — silence is far worse. So I say, piss off a bigot today!