Marriage is a Civil Right18 February, 2009
Not a Religious Right
One of my best friends is gay. Which means, of course, that he is denied one of the very basic human rights: the right to marriage (unless, of course, he uproots himself, his career, and his partner and moves to Massachusetts). A few states use ‘civil unions’ to provide weasel room. They are afraid of the religious right, even though marriage is an act governed by civil law.
Marriage is, legally, a civil act. If a couple wishes to marry in a church or other religious building or setting, that is their option. But it is the state legislatures, not the pastors, priests, rabbis and imams, which decide who can legally marry, often overruling religious groups — age and number of wives are two examples. When (((Wife))) and I married, a justice of the peace performed the ceremony. The key phrase? “By the authority vested in me by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I now pronounce you man and wife.” No god, no church, no religion involved.
So why do I bring this up? Down in Florida (from the Miami Herald) , a gay woman was denied the chance to be with her partner of 17 years during the last hours of her life because the hospital does not allow non-relatives into the intensive care unit (Hat tip to Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars).
As her partner of 17 years slipped into a coma, Janice Langbehn pleaded with doctors and anyone who would listen to let her into the woman’s hospital room.
Jackson staffers advised Langbehn that she could not see Pond earlier because the hospital’s visitation policy in cases of emergency was limited to immediate family and spouses — not partners. In Florida, same-sex marriages or partnerships are not recognized. On Friday, two years after her partner’s death, Langbehn and her attorneys were in federal court, claiming emotional distress and negligence in a suit they filed last June.
Eight anguishing hours passed before Langbehn would be allowed into Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center. By then, she could only say her final farewell as a priest performed the last rites on 39-year-old Lisa Marie Pond.
The hospital, of course, says that they have no legal obligation to let anyone visit a patient. So does she have a suit? Probably:
At Friday’s hearing, Langbehn’s lawyers argued the case should be tried because Langbehn had the proper documentation to make medical decisions on behalf of her partner, and was not consulted about Pond’s condition for hours despite seeking answers every 20 minutes.
”This is not just about same-sex couples,” said attorney Donald Hayden, who is also representing the Langbehn family. “This is about protecting the legal access that a parent has to see a child, or an essential loved ones right to be aware of what is going on with their loved one.”…
Though Langbehn had documents declaring her Pond’s legal guardian and giving her the medical ”power of attorney,” Jackson officials refused to recognize her or the kids as family.
Keep in mind, of course, that opponents of same-sex marriage claim that gays do not need to actually get married; powers-of-attorney and other documents give them the same legal rights as married couples. Langbehn had those documents and the hospital refused to recognize them. I will be curious just how the hospital’s lawyers excuse ignoring all of the documentation.
I am lucky. I am heterosexual, as is (((Wife))). Our civil rights are recognized by mainstream society. Langbehn and Pond? Victims of a society which insists upon using religious standards to determine civil rights. This is, pure and simple, bigotry.
Does bigotry sound a little strong? Read some of the comments left by readers (with my snark added):
If one is against the gay lifestyle then it is deleted by the gay loving herald. where is freedom of speech. these two decided to live an abnormal (according to who? Jesus? Leviticus? Does the Bible even mention lesbians?) lifestyle and they should learn to live with it and quit forcing their lifestyle down the the throats of the majority (because the majority is always right — slavery, votes for women, child labor) . if you do not like it move to the netherlands or some other country that loves and supports this type of lifestyle (In other words, if you want to pursue life, liberty and happiness, and your ideas of life, liberty and happiness is different than mine, leave.)
Or this one:
To your people who think that the gay life style is an acceptable life style, and you say, “What would Jesus do?” (Because a fictional super-rabbi is always applicable to a secular democracy) I suggest you read the Holy Bible, God’s word, and see what God did to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their perversions. Dont ask me who I am to judge. I am not judging. (You are interpreting the law, which is what judges do (but a distinction like that is probably way past your abilities)) I am simply quoting what the One who will judge us all has already said on the subject. (Because in a secular democracy, we should base our laws on bronze age myths.)
I suppose that keeping this woman away from her wife helps to protect the sanctity of marriage.