Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Right to Pull the Plug

This morning I walked into City Hall in downtown Orlando and became the domestic partner of my boyfriend Dustin. Orlando passed a domestic partner registry in late 2011 and it officially took effect last week. I'm now officially bound to another human being.

Well, sort of.

The registry basically gives us the ability to make medical and funeral decisions for each other within the city limits of Orlando. Oh, and we can visit each other in jail. These are important rights to have, but are fairly limited.

The process was easy and smooth. We stood in the City Clerk's office in our work clothes initialing here and there and signing one form and it was done. We got a certificate and wallet size copies to carry around with us, which is nice since most people will probably require that we prove our partnership before we actually can exercise any of these rights. Though I could probably walk into any hospital in town and find an unconscious female around my age and claim I'm her husband with no questions asked (why hasn't some radical gay group tried that yet?).

Don't get me wrong, I'm very proud of the people who fought to make this happen and I'm proud of the city of Orlando. As a city there isn't much more they can offer us when we live in a state and country that does not recognize our relationship. But the truth of the matter is that getting these few basic rights highlights the complete absurdity of this entire debate over gay marriage.

I spend most of my time trying not to think about the complete injustice and inequality that I am faced with on a daily basis as a gay person in this country. I think that's what most gay people do. We put on a good face. We make jokes. We live our lives. We drink a lot. But when I do think about it, I'm almost not even as angry as I am completely amazed and astonished. In some ways, I can't quite believe I live in a country that refuses to recognize my relationship, refuses to give me equal marriage or adoption rights, and even allows me to be fired for being gay. It's actually almost completely unbelievable. It's rather absurd that I had to go to City Hall today to get a piece of paper that pretty much only allows me to pull the plug on my partner of 8 years and only if we are right here in the city of Orlando. This absurdity hits even higher levels when we are constantly bombarded by political talk of "freedom" and the whole idea that we, as Americans, are leaders of freedom in the world. How do people still get away with saying this? When was it ever true?

Today was a nice experience. I have a certificate. I have these few rights. I was able to change my status on Facebook to "in a domestic partnership." I was offered many "likes" and "congrats," but I don't really know if there is much to celebrate. I don't mean to be a downer, but I'm also exhausted by acting as if everything is fine. It's actually not fine. A good portion of my friends could walk into a bar, find a member of the opposite sex, and marry them the next day with no questions asked. Yet, I can't marry someone I've been with for 8 years. I know people who have met someone, married them, and divorced them in less time.

Last year, I had to pay over $300 dollars in extra taxes that I wouldn't have had to pay had I been married to Dustin. The fact that I help support him while he goes to school and works a lower paying job has no effect on my tax information. He's my roommate legally and nothing more. This is true for even gay couples in states that have gay marriage. You still can't file joint federal taxes. The fact that my partner has a family that doesn't know me very well and hasn't always been very supportive of our relationship, could mean that if anything ever happened to Dustin, I could be left with nothing that he wanted me to have. This is a real issue that is facing lots of people in this country.

I appreciate all of the love and support that I have from my family and my friends. I'm happy that I got lots of "likes" and "congrats" on Facebook. But I also challenge each of these people to help in the fight for equality. Do you vote in every election? Just voting for the president doesn't do much. State and local people make a huge difference in this fight and every fight. Do you talk to people about gay rights issues, even if you are not gay yourself? We can't win this fight without the help of straight people who are willing to speak out and learn the facts. I know many who are and I'm thankful for them, but I also know many out of touch gay and straight people, who often don't even understand what a domestic partnership means. There's probably someone who read my status today and basically thinks I'm married. I'm far from married. What I got today is a far cry from equality.

We are taking steps, but sometimes these steps point out the injustice even more clearly. Domestic partner doesn't sound very romantic, does it?

-Stephen (Domesticated)

1 comment:

  1. We've done the same thing... in THREE DIFFERENT STATES!! Which means: not only did we have to pay for 'register' but pay to 'unregister', then pay again to 'reregister' in the new state, etc. And each state has different policies/procedures for "us" which makes it really, really STUPID!! I agree with you, we may be making A LITTLE headway, but our little pieces of paper don't add up to much in the big scheme of things, do they? Sucks that in the U.S.A., in 2012, "they" will do everything to find a way to keep us apart. Still, congratulations. That piece of paper at least FEELS like something--sort of--real. XOXO Chuck