Friday, March 11, 2011
Equal or Additional?
A marriage equality bill was brought before the Maryland House today. It had already passed the Senate by a 25-21 vote, and Governor Martin O'Malley was prepared to sign it into law. After emotional debate on both sides, it was decided to send the bill back to the Judiciary Committee, essentially killing the bill for the year.
Needless to say, this is a great disappointment. The rights of people should never be put to a vote among anyone, but simply granted. As I've said before, if I'm expected to pay taxes, register for the draft and go to jury duty like everyone else, I shouldn't have less rights for half of the burden.
Earlier today, on a friend's Facebook thread, I posted a comment in that same vein. I also expressed dismay that quite often the most vociferous opponents of same-sex marriage and other equality-related issues turn out to be hypocrites when they are caught in gay scandals of their own. (NY Democratic State Senator Carl Kruger, who cast votes against same-sex marriage in that state last year, was essentially exposed as a hypocrite and a criminal when he surrendered to federal authorities on corruption charges yesterday.) I then said that if you have issues with your own sexuality, you shouldn't take away my rights.
A friend of this friend replied to my comment by asking "What 'right' of yours has been taken away?" He then said, "No rights have been denied here. This is very different from race based discrimination. What same-sex couples are asking for is additional rights. They have the exact same rights that I do currently."
I then asked whether he had the right to marry a woman he loved. I asked whether he had the right to be at her bedside should she be hospitalized, to be empowered to make decisions relative to her medical care. I also asked whether he had the right to be named a beneficiary for any insurance or pension plans she might have. I explained that if he had those rights, I did not. So at the current time, I do not have the same rights as he did.
His reply infuriated me: "As far as 'rights' go, none of those are rights. You have a right to marry someone. Currently, you have the right to marry...any woman of your choosing. You're asking for the additional right to be able to marry any man of your choosing." He does not understand that in most states, same-sex partners are not recognized by hospitals or health care facilities as the decision maker regarding their partner/spouse's care.
I think I am correct in this debateI'm not asking for additional rights, I'm asking for the same rights everyone else has.
But am I correct, or simply too close to the situation to see clearly?
Are these additional rights or just basic unalienable rights that should be granted to everyone, not voted on by lawmakers or those who don't feel gay people are worthy of equality?
If I'm wrong, I'll admit it...but I just don't think so.