As it turns out, it was too good to be true. The state of Mormons and Mitts could not really legalize gay marriage, at least not in the logical, fair, and consistent way of all 17 states before them – save California. While California also halted same-sex marriage temporarily, they at least had the decency to recognize the gay marriages that had taken place during the time before Prop 8. More than 1,000 Utah couples are not so lucky: not only is marriage equality halted while the Supreme Court examines an appeal, but the state has voided all gay marriage licenses that judges issued during the 17 days when they legally could. Those marriages don’t count. At all.
And really, you want to say that gay couples ruin the sanctity of marriage? Hell, I won’t even blame Kim Kardashian for ruining the sanctity of marriage. Guess what, Utah? There’s one word that defines that sanctity: forever. Whether it’s two men, two women, or a man and a woman, when two people say, “I do,” they commit to forever. That’s their end of the bargain. Your end of the bargain is that their commitment will be legally recognized and binding…forever. Getting a divorce is hell because most states DO hold up their end of the deal. No state has ever made marriages legal for 17 DAYS – and then decided they meant nothing. THAT endangers the sanctity of marriage, and really the sanctity of any legal contract.
The couples that got married during the past three weeks in Utah love each other no less now that their marriages aren’t legally recognized. They are no less committed to each other, no less a family, and no less determined to fight for equality. But they’ve lost more than just a piece of paper. They’ve lost at least twice as many rights as they had days of legal marriage. Here are just a few examples:
1) The ability to apply for a green card for their spouse. If you are a straight, American citizen and get married, your spouse, no matter where he or she is from, has the right to live in the United States if they’re accepted for a green card. Not so with gay couples who aren’t legally married, regardless of how long they’ve been together. Here is a heartbreaking story of a California couple separated 17 times before the Supreme Court overturned Prop 8 this summer. http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/watch-now-legally-married-couple-still-separated-17-times-in-six-years-over-doma/politics/2013/05/14/66919#.Us6mtmyx4dU
2) The right to file joint tax returns and access to tax breaks for married couples. Hard to believe, but taxes CAN get even worse. It’s been a nightmare trying to get financial aid for college. We don’t fit any of the FAFSA boxes.
3) The right to joint-adoption of American children.
4) Access to health insurance and life insurance through a spouse’s workplace.
5) The right to make medical decisions for your spouse in an emergency – or even to see them. A gay person’s family can refuse to allow their partner to visit them in the hospital, even if the family has been absent for years and the gay couple shares a home, a business and a life. That’s exactly what happened to Shane Bitney Crone and Tom Bridegroom. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pR9gyloyOjM
Even as the child of gay parents, I didn’t understand until recently just how many privileges my moms don’t have because they can’t get legally married. It hurts our family financially, and it forces many couples away from each other for months or even years at a time. But maybe the simplest thing 1,000 Utah couples have lost is actually the most important: the validation that their love is equal in the eyes of the law, the ability to call the person they’ve chosen to share their life with “my husband” or “my wife.” There is no word in our language other than “marriage” that is so universally and immediately recognized as a symbol of love, commitment, and foreverness.
For 1,000 gay couples, forever meant forever. For the state of Utah, forever meant seventeen days.