Thursday, January 14, 2010
First a Husband, Now a Gay Widower
I find it ironic that I am grieving the loss of my legal husband, yet there is also a trial being played out in the Federal Court about the legality of a ban on such marriages. Unfortunately, the Court has chosen not to allow cameras in the court room, so we are only able to follow the proceedings through various blogs over the internet.
I understand that in today's hearing, the Court heard testimony on how gay relationships are found to be very similar to straight relationships. Who would have known? The testimony, by a psychologist, reported that studies have gound that the quality of heterosexual and homosexual relationships was on average 'the same' as measured by closeness, love and stability.
Now, I don't claim to be an expert on either heterosexual or homosexual relationships, I can only speak of my own relationship. I was a single father, with three children, who met a wonderfully supportive man, fell in love, and married. If I, or Michael, was a woman, some how this would have been percieved as a wonderful example of the type of relationships that can only benefit from the sanctity of marriage. The problem arises when the relationship becomes described as a gay single father, with three adopted children, who met a wonderfully supportive gay man, fell in love, and wanted to have a same sex marriage. Why is this a problem?
Well, the first person who had a problem with this was Michael. Yes, my husband. Was he against same sex marriage? No. Did he think that a same sex marriage would take something away from opposite sex marriages? No. I'll tell you what the problem was. Michael didn't want to make me a widower.
When the California Supreme Court announced in May 2008 that gay couples could legally wed, we stood in our living room in shock. I remember the two of us looking like a pair of deer in headlights. My daughter was so excited by the announcement, that she kind of jumped the gun, and considered us instantly engaged. Why wouldn't she. Michael and I had been a couple for two years at that point. We were truly in love with each other. We shared a home, went to church, had a joint checking account, and were fighting cancer.
At the time that Michael was diagnosed with his brain tumor we were preparing to leave on an all gay cruise. It was going to be a non stop party from Long Beach, California, all the way to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. In fact, I was out buying some last minute things for our trip while he was at yet another doctor appointment regarding his ongoing headaches. When the doctor told him that something came up on his MRI, he asked Michael if there was someone he wanted to call to be with him. For some reason his call didn't go through, but I received the message he left. The minute I heard his voice, I left the full shopping cart in the middle of the store. I ran out, got in my car, and began driving to the hospital.
Not knowing exactly where to find Michael, I began going from one office to the next. I explained that my boyfriend called about a serious matter, and that I needed to find him. The response I received was that they couldn't give me any information because of patient privacy. After going through this in more than one office, I through myself at the mercy of one poor receptionist, screaming out that Michael was in tears on the phone, and please be compassionate. She told me he was having another test, and if I waited in the room I should see him on his way out. Unfortunately, he left through a door outside the waiting room, and I we didn't see each other. I ended up having to meet him at home.
When we met at the house Michael told me that there was a mass in his brain, and that his doctor would be calling me. The doctor did, and told me it was very serious. He instructed me to take Michael to the hospital in a few hours to be checked in, as that he would need surgery. When we arrived at the hospital, a different one than earlier, we were asked if we had a registered partnership. We explained that we had not registered, so the intake worker quickly gave us some medical directive documents we could fill out. A few days later Michael had his surgery to remove most of the tumor. When Michael was released to come home we began to panic. He had been on his new job just under a year, and was awaiting his probationary evaluation. What if they chose not to keep him now that he had a brain tumor? He was a budget analysist. This could be a serious problem. We needed to quickly register our relationship with the state, get him on my medical plan, and speak to an attorney.
All of this could have been avoided. If marriage had been an option, we clearly would have been married already. So fast forward to May 2008, same sex marriage is announced as legal, daughter considers us engaged. Suddenly, we are a couple no different than any other. Of course, no different than any other couple where one has terminal cancer. Michael loves Dan. Michael doesn't want to leave Dan with the title of 'widower.' Michael and Dan discuss this with couples counselor. Michael realizes that Dan is asking to be a husband, not a widower. Michael proposes to Dan. October 19, 2008, Michael and Dan are wed.
Fast foward to September 13, 2009, Michael dies. Fast foward to January 14, 2010, Dan, in real time, sits blogging about his experience as a widower. Does the fact that were were legally married help me better understand myself as a widower, not really. I would feel my grief, married or not. Does the fact that we were legally married help others better understand me as a widower, likely. In dealing with all the arrangements after Michael's death, including the funeral home, life insurance, disability insurance, and bank, all I really needed was one document, our marriage license. Even though we had all the legal documents drawn up, not one person questioned my role. Unless you have faced the type of discrimination, and limitations imposed, by not having equal rights, then it is hard to clearly understand.
Since Michael's death I have found understand, and support, from both gay and straight widows and widowers. I have exhanged messages on blogs, and I have sat in bereavement groups. The only difference between myself and my straight counter-parts is that when the discussion turns to if we will ever marry again, my answer is already decided for me. My answer can only be no. I no longer have the right to marry. Does that mean I cannot be in a future relationship? No. That is for me to decide. Does that mean that I can never be a husband again? At present time, yes.
The day Michael died I couldn't help but think to myself that I was no longer part of a special group of people who enjoyed the priviledge of being married. I can only hope that one day soon, justice will prevail. That I, and all others, will be afforded our equal protection, and our equal rights, under the law.