Why gay marriage is important
What is enough?
I know some Vermonters may be thinking that a civil union for same-sex couples is "enough."
If you are thinking that civil unions are enough or disagree entirely with this civil rights issue, read on. I am going to change your mind.
This September my civil union partner and I will celebrate 32 years of our long-term commitment. It would be so much easier to proclaim that we are a married couple, and more understandable, especially to those who live outside of Vermont and the United States. Try traveling to a state that does not recognize civil unions, which is 47 states in the United States, and explaining civil union to a narrow-minded individual, not an easy task, but sometimes necessary. My partner and I are both nurses, contributed countless hours to volunteer activities in the community, politically active, we are spiritual. We are supporting a civil marriage, not even considering that organized religion be forced to perform a marriage. This is a case for separation of church and state.
Each time my civil union partner and I fill out paperwork for employers or when we go to a new physician, dentist, or surgeon we have to check off "civil union" in the martial status section. Does not sound like a civil rights issue but it is. As we check off "civil union" we are outing ourselves as gay men which could be used to discriminate against us. Most of you that have had the courage to read on have, probably, not faced discrimination in your life. I have, and I can tell you that once you are discriminated against you can spot, smell, recognize anyone that attempts to discriminate.
Convincing Vermonters that civil marriage for same-sex couples is a civil rights issue should be an easy task; historically Vermonters have led the way in civil rights issues. Vermont House Speaker Gaye Symington and State Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin have taken a leadership role and formed a blue ribbon commission to study Vermont's laws governing same-sex couples. The commission will hold public hearings around the state and will evaluate whether same-sex couples in Vermont should have the same legal right to marry as heterosexuals. Following their evaluation, the commission will make a recommendation to the Legislature; supporters of this civil rights issue should plan on attending one of these meetings, and/or show your support by contacting Gaye Symington or Peter Shumlin.
Showing support for same-sex marriage will ease the minds of those politicians' that want to be re-elected. When the majority of Vermonters attend meetings or contact Symington and Shumlin, those in office can relax a bit, pass the law with the support of the citizens in Vermont, which would make us the first state in the county to pass a civil marriage law with the support of the people. Quite a concept, and a way to show the nation how we deal with civil rights issues here in Vermont.
OK, if I have not changed the mind of those of you that think that the civil union law is enough, perhaps you should check in with those in your family or circle of friends that are gay or lesbian. I know you know someone in your family; this might be a good time to have a discussion with family or a friend that is not "out" to you as gay or lesbian. If you are insisting that your family and friends are all heterosexual, well, now you know me.
MICHAEL SAINT JOSEPH