In my current home state (current because Ohio will always be my real home state) of Washington, our state-wide LGBTQ organization, Equal Rights Washington, just introduced a state-wide Domestic Partnership Expansion Bill*. Currently, our state provides partial rights under our Domestic Partnership laws including property rights, real-estate related taxes, powers of attorney, and a few more. The DP expansion bill would provide WA-state LGBTQ families with even more rights, making our relationships almost equivalent (at least at the state-level) to heterosexual married couples. Since yesterday’s announcement of this bill, there has been some heated debate about weather it is “too little vs. too much” and of course, the consistent debate amongst our own community of “Domestic Partnership” vs. “Marriage.”
As the debate rages, I feel the need to bring attention to a very specific quote from ERW: They say that this DP bill is “part of a broader effort to secure full marriage equality in Washington.” While we all work together to achieve full marriage equality, we need to understand that there are steps to be taken in this process. Some of these steps include starting off with a word that many of us are not comfortable with: Domestic Partnership. This word, from what I gather, is meant to be a “start,” but definitely not an end in our evolution toward full equality.
So now I want to bring this question to YOU on a national level. If you were given the option to fully protect your family RIGHT NOW, but have those protections categorized under the term “Domestic Partner” or to wait an uncertain amount of time (months, years, possibly more) so that you can have the entire package – the word and the rights… which would you choose? Now, I am in no way trying to under play the word “marriage.” Beyond the 1100 PLUS Federal rights that come with the word “marriage,” there are also numerous unspoken social rights that come with the word.
As this debate rages in our community, there are LGBTQ families in need of equal protections NOW. With our current economic state, we need to ensure that families can share pensions, health insurance, life insurance, and more. In some states, these protections can come immediately, but only if the semantics come with it. Many are angry about this. Many feel that this is an all or nothing situation and they will not support a Domestic Partnership because it does not come with all of the federal and social rights of Civil Marriage. I say, that we must come together as a community, which was the call to action that began Join the Impact. We cannot let our community continue to be divided in this debate, while elderly members of our community loose out (as many DP rights are set to protect these people the most). A DP is NOT FULL EQUALITY, but it IS a step in the right direction, and I think we need that step to be taken in states that require it. Not all states can skip the step of DP, but we are lucky to have those that can.
While we continue this discussion, we each must realize that there is an internal struggle we must deal with as well. We are raised to believe that the highest form of commitment only comes with the word “marriage.” This is why I call my wife, “my wife.” This is why I call my relationship a “marriage.” And this is why I spent a whole lot of money on a full-blown “traditional” ceremony with family and friends to celebrate my love. I did this because the word is extremely important to me. I did this because I have a deep rooted pride and respect in the word marriage. And the internal struggle exists when those outside my family do not understand my relationship or revere it the way I do, or the way they would a heterosexual marriage of two perfect strangers. The majority of these people do not “hate” me or my relationship. Instead, they believe that they are protecting their families when fighting to keep this word theirs. We, on the other hand, are protecting our families when fighting for this word as well. Herein lies the divide, which is rooted in an equal end goal: protection of one’s family. Well, I’m going to protect my family in any and every way that I can. I will do this by upholding my definition of marriage: A monogamous, consensual, life-long commitment rooted in love, honor, respect, and responsibility. I will do this by fighting for equal protections under the law. I will do this because I know that one day, the ENTIRE package of equality will be sitting at my doorstep.
This is a chicken vs. the egg scenario. What will come first, the legal rights, or the social rights? That is up to you. If the legal rights come to me here in Washington before the social rights do, I won’t complain. I won’t because I demand those social rights everyday in everything that I do. I know what my relationship is, and I am confident enough in it that nobody’s beliefs can change it. No law will tell me what I can and cannot call my family. No law will tell me how to regard my wife. I AM MARRIED, and the LAW and the SEMANTICS will just have to catch up to my PRIDE!
*If you are in WA and would like to support this next step toward civil-marriage, please email your legislature today!
*If you are in a state where similar initiatives are taking place, PLEASE post them on this blog, The Impact, and email JTI with them as well… JTI will do whatever we can to help get the word out and help!