Election Eve

My friend Vanessa posted this about herself... I think it is incredibly powerful. It's Election Eve, so I'll re-post this for those who haven't had a chance to read it. It is long, but I've gotten feedback that it has made a difference for some people.

This election, please vote for me.

I’d like to share what is at stake for me this election, specifically as a gay person. It comes down to marriage equality. Though it is 2012, I am still a second-class citizen in the eyes of

the law. I don’t have many of the rights my straight friends take for granted. For example, I am married. Many of you know that I have been with Kallen for over 10 years and happily married to her for four years…but only in California. None of my straight friends have to specify which state they are married in. That’s because all states recognize every other states’ opposite-sex marriages, but 37 states, including Colorado, explicitly ban recognition of other states’ same-sex marriages. So what are we in Colorado? Single. Really single. There are some things that spouses automatically get while they are alive, like hospital visitation rights, second-parent adoption, joint tax returns, and immigration status. We can ask for some of those benefits with some paperwork and a lawyer, but not the taxes and immigration stuff. There are some things spouses get when one dies, like automatic transfer of property without tax and social security benefits. Again, we can fix some of it with paperwork and lawyers, but not the social security part.

Here’s something that has affected me in the last few years. The first year I worked for my pharmaceutical company, 2010, the company provided health insurance for employees and spouses. Since I wasn’t legally married in Colorado, “spouse” didn’t apply to Kallen. She went without insurance. The next year, the company got kinder. On their own, they extended health insurance to “domestic partners.” Kallen got covered under my insurance. However, federal law (the Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA) requires that if it is not insurance for a “spouse,” I must pay for health insurance premiums with after-tax dollars instead of pre-tax dollars. Bottom line? It costs us $350 more per month for our health insurance than it would if Kallen were a husband instead of a “domestic partner.”

Here’s the other impact. Whenever I meet a new person, whether professionally or socially, and the conversation turns to, “so, are you married?” I hesitate for a second. “I have a wife,” is what I want to say. I take that hesitating second to estimate what kind of impact that statement will have on the other person. Where is this person from? What does he think about gay people? If he is generally “cool with” gay people, what if he still doesn’t think same-sex marriage is right? How will saying “my wife” affect our professional relationship? Will he think I am trying to be in his face, or political? Sometimes I am brave, and I go for “wife.” Sometimes I hedge, and go for “partner.” Sometimes, though rarely, I feel threatened, and I don’t say I am married at all. Every time, it hurts.

That’s why I cried. One summer day a few months ago, I was driving to work, and I had heard on the news that President Obama was going to say “something” about his stance on gay rights. I turned the radio to the news, and I heard him talk about how his daughters have friends who have same-sex parents. He said his daughters couldn’t imagine that their friends would be treated any differently than they were. Then he said the words “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married,” and tears rolled down my cheeks. For the first time ever, a sitting U.S. President endorsed same-sex marriage. I could envision a day when me saying “wife” wouldn’t make anyone flinch.

For the first election ever, one candidate is for marriage equality and one is not. President Obama been more than I could have hoped for on LGBT rights. He has repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I remember the pain of one of my friends from Hawaii who was discharged from a military career she absolutely loved, for being a lesbian. No one has to endure that again. President Obama signed an executive order that any hospital that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding must recognize same-sex relationships for visitation purposes. His administration has refused to defend DOMA in court, which means that if the Supreme Court hears a challenge to that law while Obama is president, the Justice Department will not oppose that challenge. DOMA is what denies federal recognition of my marriage in California and lets Colorado deny it too. On the other hand, Mitt Romney has signed the anti-gay group National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) pledge to appoint Supreme Court justices that will deny marriage equality and to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would prevent same-sex marriages from ever being recognized. He also said that “it’s not right” that gay people have children. I’ll fight so that my future children don’t have to hear anyone tell them that.

That is why I am really asking you to vote for me. This election is such a stark choice for LGBT people. It is the difference between finally realizing full equal rights we have been striving toward for the last 50+ years, and being set back four, and possibly many more, years. Some people are planning or leaning Republican this election because they are picking the Republican economic theory over the Democratic economic theory. These economic arguments have been the same on both sides for 100 years. The debt and the annual budget deficit have been created by both parties, and guess what? No matter who gets in office, within the next 10 or 15 years, our government will have to address the debt through some combination of 1) spending cuts and 2) tax increases. That’s how it will have to be. The economy, by the way, is the area that any president has the least amount of control over. Congress is divided and likely will continue to be. Compromise on either Obama’s or Romney’s economic plans is inevitable. A vote for Romney’s economic plan amounts to no more than saying, well, he is a businessman, so let’s give him a chance to see if he can do better with the economy. That’s not a good enough reason to deny me my rights.

To my friends who plan on voting for Romney even though they are for gay rights, I will not yell at you or unfriend you or attack you. You are the people I sit in class with, the people I do business with, the people I work with. I can’t influence you to be sympathetic to my struggles if I disassociate myself from you. I don’t want to do that. I just ask you to consider what it feels like to ask your peers to help you get your civil rights. Every time a marriage equality issue has been on a ballot, 32 out of 32 times, I have lost. I have lost and my peers have voted with the other side. When a politician says he wants to leave my rights “up to the states,” it means he thinks the states should be allowed to tell me no. That is why I am asking you to vote for me. The next president will have a great amount of influence on LGBT rights—far much more than his influence on the economy—because he will probably appoint two Supreme Court justices. Our marriage equality fight will most likely be settled there. A president that is for marriage equality also shapes public opinion. Already, since President Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality this summer, public opinion has shifted remarkably towards equal rights.

I can envision that if President Obama gets re-elected, by the time 2016 comes, we may have the first presidential election where BOTH candidates support marriage equality. We will look at the 2012 election as the last one where one of the candidates spoke unkindly about LGBT Americans, and we start to leave these particular days of injustice to the history books. It will be like how John F. Kennedy championed civil rights for African-Americans. A white man in the Oval Office stood for the rights of black people all across this nation. Now a straight, black man in the Oval Office stands for the rights of LGBT people all across this nation. Please recognize the historical significance of President Obama’s stand, and vote for me by voting for him.