This morning I read Chris Geidner’s great article on how we beat back our opposition’s propaganda to sweep five marriage equality battles in the last election. This bit leapt out at me:
Commitment trumps rights, a point made in prior research by Freedom to Marry as well: “Leading with commitment will show the middle that gay people want to join the institution of marriage, not change it.”
We talk a lot about marriage rights, but every one of us in a committed relationship has a commitment story to tell — to lead with, in fact. Use the comments below to craft the one that belongs to you.
I told mine once before when Maggie Gallagher demonstrated her blithe ignorance of what commitment means by saying same-sex partners don’t need employer health benefits: “when both adults are working (as in egalitarian relationships), both partners tend to sustain their own health insurance.” Here it is:
In 2011, my partner Will fractured his wrist. He was back in school as a full-time student, with a full-time job that didn’t offer benefits. I hadn’t realized that schools don’t offer the same health care that I got a couple decades ago, so I hadn’t put him on my employer’s insurance. He ended up with a temporary cast, along with an appointment a couple weeks later and a warning they might have to rebreak his wrist before setting it properly.
We sorted it out, but I was angry for long afterward, and really I was furious with myself. Will didn’t think so, but I had failed him, and as we recounted the ordeal to his parents I could barely look them in the eye. Will is my responsibility, and I am his. His medical bills are my medical bills. If our circumstance changed, and I needed help, Will would quit school and take on three jobs if my health required it. So God help me, when it was over I didn’t fucking say to him, “Sorry, babe, but in an egalitarian relationship both partners sustain their own health insurance.” No, I got him on my plan because that’s the way relationships work.
Will is my responsibility, and I am his. That’s the short version of the story. Actually that ought to be the first and last line every time I tell it.
People don’t marry just to take care of their kids. They marry to be responsible for each other: Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour / For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
It astonishes me how many of our religious opponents are so quick to forget their own Bible when they claim marriage is all about the kids. Marriage does come with legal rights, but the rights we care most about the ones that help us live up to our responsibilities: the right to be in that hospital room, to provide medical care, to make decisions when your partner cannot, to ensure he can support himself if you are taken, to give your employer an honest reason when you take a personal day for his sake, to live in the same room, the same home, the same country without fearing discrimination or separation.
Because of federal tax penalties, putting Will on my insurance amounts to a $3500 annual pay cut compared to what my married colleagues give up. I can see why someone might think I’m merely greedy when I point that out, concerned for nothing but what I can get from marriage equality. But those rights and benefits for married couples — available with kids or without — were put in place for a reason: to help spouses care for each other. And in a rare show of unanimity the entire political spectrum considers this very long tradition a very good thing. Which brings me to my single-sentence argument for marriage equality, the one I’ll come back to again and again.
We only ask for the rights because we’ve already accepted the responsibilities.
I’ve given you my story. Now tell me yours.