How can I make them see?
September 4, 2008 9:27 PM   Subscribe

I'm die-hard military, but I'm also die-hard gay. With the election coming up, how do I show my military friends what this election means to me as a gay man?

Disclaimer - I'm now a veteran. I served for over 10 years and flew over "desert countries". I got out of the military a couple of years ago. No one asked, and I didn't tell.

Although I'm all over the spectrum when it comes to the candidates issues - i.e. I'm not a devout Democrat OR Republican (call me a moderate-liberal???), one issue above all rises to the top to me... 'gay marriage'.

But let's be clear up front - I don't believe in 'gay marriage'. I think marriage is a religious institution that over time has been codified into state and federal law. Since I'm NOT religious, I have no desire to have my relationship blessed by a church. I think 'marriage' should be left to your religion, but if you want to be recognized by the state - no matter if you're gay, straight, or purple, the union of two HUMANS (no animals, sorry!) should be left to the government. Let's just call it a 'hu-mu' (human-union)?

My military friends really have no comprehension of what it's like to be in a gay relationship and denied all the rights and benefits given by the government that come with marriage. One of my biggest fears is that my partner and I of 6+ years will wind up in the hospital and not be able to see or take care of each other.

I'm fully aware of 'durable powers of attorney' and all the legal maneuvering that one can take to 'try' to ensure that such things don't happen, but when it comes to push and shove most gay couples aren't privy to that knowledge or don't have access to good attorneys.

My question is... What I'm looking for is a resource that can provide me with FACTUAL examples of gay couples that were denied visitation rights in hospitals when one of the partners became sick or were dying/died.

Is there anything out there that documents these kinds of incidents? My hope is to give my military friends REAL examples of REAL people who were denied something they take for granted.

My apologies if this AskMe is off-base, but I'm just beginning to explore how to approach this subject.
posted by matty to Human Relations (28 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm sure that there are going to be lots of examples of real people in the following answers, but I just want to get this in: the best thing you can possibly do is just to tell them what you just told us.
posted by awesomebrad at 9:35 PM on September 4, 2008


Since you asked: HRC's Marriage Stories

And I'd consider browsing the sites of some of the organizations dedicated to helping gay and lesbian service members. Maybe they are better at explaining the issues in ways your military buddies understand.

But honestly... you explained the issue pretty clearly just now. If people can't understand that, I doubt that a list of names or facts or statistics is going to help. Or maybe I'm just cynical.
posted by meta_eli at 9:52 PM on September 4, 2008




It might be easier to get first person stories about the immigration angle – it seems like I've read about plenty of same-sex couples who were forced apart because of US Immigration policies. But here's a NY Times article about a father who managed to keep his hospitalized daughter from seeing her lover for years:

Donald Kowalski said yesterday, as he has many times before, that he refused to believe that his daughter was a lesbian. ''I've never seen anything that would make me believe it, and I will not change my mind until Sharon is capable of telling me in her own words,'' he said in a telephone interview. ''And I do not believe the reports that she was happy to see Thompson.''

It's from 1989, but it's the first one I found.
posted by roger ackroyd at 9:58 PM on September 4, 2008


Wiki gives a better overview.
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:02 PM on September 4, 2008


I assume hospice workers have HIPPA barriers, but perhaps if you know a couple they could steer you toward stories that would be helpful. Also grief counselors.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:09 PM on September 4, 2008


Here's a more current case.

...Kenneth Johnson, an attorney who lived with his partner, James Massey and their adopted son, in Virginia. When they lived in California, they had legally registered as domestic partners.

In 2006, Massey was rushed unconscious to Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. Because their relationship was not legal, Johnson had to go back home to retrieve documents—like a medical power of attorney or a health care proxy—before the hospital would allow him to make medical decisions on the part of his life partner. Instead of being able to just be with his partner, unencumbered from the red tape and homophobia, Johnson had to fight for his rights as James slipped away. He died the following day.


- link
posted by roger ackroyd at 10:11 PM on September 4, 2008


A slightly odd suggestion: Email Dan Savage. He's got a kid with his boyfriend, has more of the exact info that you're looking for than probably 99% of people out there, and (imho) is also a quality writer, which is a surprisingly handy tool.

Good luck!

(Just to double-check since you didn't explicitly say it: these military friends of yours DO know that you are gay, yes?)
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:27 PM on September 4, 2008


Banning gay marriage is unconstitutional. The Equal Protection Clause says "no state shall… deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

By the way, this was the reasoning behind the recent California Supreme Court decision that said banning gay marriage was against the California constitution, and I believe if it goes to the US Supreme Court a ban will be found unconstitutional due to the Equal Protection Clause, Loving v Virginia, and Lawrence v Texas. (Note: I am not a lawyer, I am a human being.)
posted by kirkaracha at 11:30 PM on September 4, 2008


But let's be clear up front - I don't believe in 'gay marriage'. I think marriage is a religious institution that over time has been codified into state and federal law. Since I'm NOT religious, I have no desire to have my relationship blessed by a church. I think 'marriage' should be left to your religion, but if you want to be recognized by the state - no matter if you're gay, straight, or purple, the union of two HUMANS (no animals, sorry!) should be left to the government. Let's just call it a 'hu-mu' (human-union)?

This is the conservative "dictionary" defense that says since "marriage" is defined in the dictionary as the union of one man and one woman, it can never be anything else.

To which the proper response is to point out that the word "gay" used to be defined by the same dictionary as meaning happy. (And "conservative" used to mean limited government, balanced budgets, and religious freedom.) Words can, and do, change their meaning.

The point is what is codified in law and the right of all citizens to expect and demand equal treatment under the law. Anything less isn't being American.
posted by three blind mice at 12:48 AM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


One of my biggest fears is that my partner and I of 6+ years will wind up in the hospital and not be able to see or take care of each other.

Which is kind of precisely why gay marriage should be an important issue to you.

To put it another way: you don't want to get married, but what if I (gay man) do?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:27 AM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


This isn't a good idea. It would come off as scripted to give specific examples of people -- that's what politicians do in speeches, not how people talk in everyday life. Just make your argument as you've made it in this thread, and if they really press you for details, just recommend that they Google, say, hospital visitation denied gay couple and they'll see plenty of examples.
posted by Jaltcoh at 3:44 AM on September 5, 2008


Fenton Johnson wrote about not being allowed to visit his dying partner in Geography of the Heart: A Memoir.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:15 AM on September 5, 2008


how do I show my military friends what this election means to me as a gay man?

others have answered the specific examples part, so I thought I'd add a few lines on that question above

'the gay' is a distraction here. take it out of the equation and make your argument about justice and equality first and only later come around and convince them that it's the honorable thing to stand up for your civil liberties as well. if you start by outlining what it's like for a gay person to be discriminated, your average conservative and not very comfortable with such subjects male will be overwhealmed and possibly intimidated. sexuality is a difficult subject to comprehend for most of us.

people serve in the military because of their desire to protect the way we live. it's a deeply moral and just spirit. remind them of how we have overcome difficult and divisive issues. take the end of jim crow. huge conflict then but everyone -I hope- completely gets it now and would be offended by seeing someone being discriminated against because of race. show your friends instances of how we became a better society by overcoming wrongs that they can agree with and then slowly build the bridge to your issue. you are right in that it's only natural that you should have the same rights and obligations as everyone else. you are right to ask for justice and equality and you are right to ask them as patriotic and loving members of the society to support you even if the way you choose to live your life is not the same as theirs.

I speculate that the main issue is that your heterosexual military friends can't imagine what it's like to be gay. they don't know and what you don't know about intimidates easily. answer their questions as respectfully and friendly as you can and win them over with your kindness. they have to come to the realization that you are right by themselves or they won't get there at all. preaching is not the same as convincing. having the same military background will already have bought you the acceptance as being the same kind of person (which is a moral judgment, a respect issue), so you will most likely be able to talk to them with greater ease than most other people.

oh yeah... these kinds of questions are one-on-one conversations. three people max. don't try to convince a group of guys to change their mind on a profound subject like this in public. changing your mind is admitting you once were mistaken and that requires privacy.
posted by krautland at 6:35 AM on September 5, 2008


Well, being that I am in the military, your best bet to show your stance on gay rights is Obama, if you are serious about military and the scope of what we do, you have no option than to vote for McCain.

I have worked with homosexuals in the military and I know firsthand what happens when one of your buddies comes out while in the service as well.

I can tell you the sentiment for homosexuality in the service is very very low. You can be very anti-gay and open about it in the service and you would not get bashed like you would say walking out on the streets of Seattle or San Francisco. So, I am saying that to say, each and every homosexual that knowlingly enlists and signs their entrance papers without disclosing this is really getting what they deserve. Its like getting fired at work for a piss test when you know your job has no tolerance for drugs in the workplace. I do not feel bad when gays lose their place in the service because they lied up front and were deceitful.

You can't make heterosexuals realize what we/they take for granted when they will never be in the same situation as you. What I am saying is, if your trying to sway your friends and make them realize what they take for granted, your argument will not make it far, because unlike gays who enlist (as I talked about earlier) non-gays didnt deceive the United States Government when they enlisted.

Its a struggle your not going to win with heterosexuals in the service my friend.
posted by TeachTheDead at 7:01 AM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can tell you the sentiment for homosexuality in the service is very very low. You can be very anti-gay and open about it in the service and you would not get bashed like you would say walking out on the streets of Seattle or San Francisco. So, I am saying that to say, each and every homosexual that knowlingly enlists and signs their entrance papers without disclosing this is really getting what they deserve. Its like getting fired at work for a piss test when you know your job has no tolerance for drugs in the workplace. I do not feel bad when gays lose their place in the service because they lied up front and were deceitful.
No it's nothing at all like drugs, because drugs are illegal! Seriously, I cannot believe this comment.
posted by peacheater at 7:17 AM on September 5, 2008


you would not get bashed like you would say walking out on the streets of Seattle or San Francisco

Write me when "bashing" (which I gather you're taking from "gay-bashing," which is NOT necessarily a figurative term) of anti-gay-remark-making folks by armed gangs of gays becomes a problem straight people have to be frightened of in either Seattle or San Francisco, or anywhere else.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:24 AM on September 5, 2008


MetaTalk
posted by orange swan at 7:49 AM on September 5, 2008


Getting back to the topic: The best way I know to "give [your] military friends REAL examples of REAL people who were denied something they take for granted" and have that teaching stick is by introducing them to people they can connect with.

Do you have out friends whose lives are similar to those of your military friends? Are your friends ever in circumstances where they can see gay families who are "just like straight families"? Are you living your life openly around them?

There's a lot of discussion in the gay community, has been for years now, about whether we are assimilating and that's a good thing or whether we are losing our own culture. This tends to come up among any minority group at some point. I'm mixed about some aspects, but this is the only thing I've seen change people's minds and get them in the heart, where it counts. They need to see that gay people are REAL PEOPLE with REAL LOVES and REAL CONCERNS, just like them, with families and kids and parents and mortgage payments and jobs and grocery shopping and cleaning the bathroom . . . and it could just as easily be them being discriminated against for something out of their control.

I digress. One thing that's been enormous for our non-gay friends has been seeing the pile of paperwork we've had to accumulate at great expense that gives us less rights than a $50 marriage certificate.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:13 AM on September 5, 2008


I heard recently about a couple who had been together for a long time and whose both sets of parents had entirely embraced their relationship. One of them got into an accident and died. His parents rented a U-Haul and turned up and his partner's apartment. Anything he didn't have receipts for got hauled off. Because his partner had no will, the family, now apparently free to display their true feelings about the relationship, were free to make off with all his stuff. So the partner ended up mourning in an empty apartment.
posted by Hildegarde at 8:19 AM on September 5, 2008


[TeachTheDead et al, please head to the metatalk thread if you need to keep going on this angle.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:26 AM on September 5, 2008


I can tell you the sentiment for homosexuality in the service is very very low.

Wrong!

73 percent of military members are comfortable with gays. Nearly one in four (23 percent) service members report knowing for sure that someone in their unit is lesbian or gay, including 21 percent of those in combat units. Only 37 percent want to keep the current DADT policy. (December 2006).

Study: Gays in Military Would Not Be Disruptive
"A bipartisan panel of retired military commanders has concluded that Congress should repeal 'don’t ask, don’t tell' and allow gays to serve openly in the military. One commander helped Bill Clinton implement the current policy in 1993 but says it’s flawed by an assumption of disruption when no evidence exists for it. The study [PDF], commissioned by UC Santa Barbara, found no evidence that gays serving openly would affect morale, unit cohesion or readiness." (July 2008)
Sam Nunn Reconsiders DADT: ‘Times Change,’ May Be ‘Appropriate’ To Lift The Ban On Gays In The Military
(June 2008).

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Tells Cadets Military Ready to Accept Gay Service Members (May 2008).

Seventy-five percent of Americans in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll said gay people who are open about their sexual orientation should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military (July 2008).
posted by ericb at 8:33 AM on September 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


My military friends really have no comprehension of what it's like to be in a gay relationship and denied all the rights and benefits given by the government that come with marriage.

Show them this list of benefits that married couples receive, and non-married couples don't.
"Filing joint income tax returns with the IRS and state taxing authorities.

Creating a 'family partnership' under federal tax laws, which allows you to divide business income among family members.

Inheriting a share of your spouse's estate.

Receiving an exemption from both estate taxes and gift taxes for all property you give or leave to your spouse.

Creating life estate trusts that are restricted to married couples, including QTIP trusts, QDOT trusts, and marital deduction trusts.

Obtaining priority if a conservator needs to be appointed for your spouse -- that is, someone to make financial and/or medical decisions on your spouse’s behalf.

Receiving Social Security, Medicare, and disability benefits for spouses.

Receiving veterans' and military benefits for spouses, such as those for education, medical care, or special loans.

Receiving public assistance benefits.

Obtaining insurance benefits through a spouse's employer.

Taking family leave to care for your spouse during an illness.

Receiving wages, workers' compensation, and retirement plan benefits for a deceased spouse.

Taking bereavement leave if your spouse or one of your spouse’s close relatives dies.

Visiting your spouse in a hospital intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours in other parts of a medical facility.

Making medical decisions for your spouse if he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to express wishes for treatment.

Consenting to after-death examinations and procedures.

Making burial or other final arrangements.

Filing for stepparent or joint adoption.

Applying for joint foster care rights.

Receiving equitable division of property if you divorce.

Receiving spousal or child support, child custody, and visitation if you divorce.

Living in neighborhoods zoned for 'families only.'

Automatically renewing leases signed by your spouse.

Receiving family rates for health, homeowners', auto, and other types of insurance.

Receiving tuition discounts and permission to use school facilities.

Other consumer discounts and incentives offered only to married couples or families.

Suing a third person for wrongful death of your spouse and loss of consortium (loss of intimacy).

Suing a third person for offenses that interfere with the success of your marriage, such as alienation of affection and criminal conversation (these laws are available in only a few states).

Claiming the marital communications privilege, which means a court can’t force you to disclose the contents of confidential communications between you and your spouse during your marriage.

Receiving crime victims' recovery benefits if your spouse is the victim of a crime.

Obtaining immigration and residency benefits for noncitizen spouse.

Visiting rights in jails and other places where visitors are restricted to immediate family."*
posted by ericb at 8:45 AM on September 5, 2008 [8 favorites]


Well, being that I am in the military, your best bet to show your stance on gay rights is Obama, if you are serious about military and the scope of what we do, you have no option than to vote for McCain.

This sort of black-and-white thinking is a huge part of the problem, in my opinion. "You're with us or against us -- thinking about this (let alone doing research) is a waste of time."

The choice is presented as voting for the guy who is perceived as being more pro-military (and accept the rest of what his party stands for) or you risk the possibility of an evil liberal plot to dissolve the military and enforce kumbayas as our only defense policy. Balderdash.

Point out the flaws in our current administration's management of the military and now military leadership has been undermined. Point out the serious criticisms made by high-ranking military officials against our current administration. In order to believe in the ideals of the military, you don't need to accept that creationism is science, criticism of the government is treason, and that "small central government" should get real gigantic if gays, women reproductive rights, immigrants, or profanity are involved.

FWIW, I agree with you on marriage being a religious institution codified by the state (agnostic, here.) I've come to some sort of understanding with religious friends by affirming that I wholeheartedly believe that government should not interfere with church policy or doctrine-- any religion that does not want to sanctify gay marriage will not hear any guff about being "forced" to accept gays from me. (Were I a member of that denomination, I would work from the inside to change things.)

Interracial marriage has worked for me as an example. The fact that Loving vs Virginia was only in 1967, and yes, the cops could and did bust into houses to roust out sleeping married couples, is pretty shocking to a lot of people who have not thought much about marriage rights being controversial except in the context of gay marriage.
posted by desuetude at 8:49 AM on September 5, 2008


Actually, desuetude, Christian churches have only embraced marriage as a religious matter relatively recently. As recently as 500 year ago, churches refused to perform marriages inside churches for the very reason that it was more of a civil issue than a religious one. They instead performed marriages on the side porch of the church, outside, in the community. Marriage was a community service, not a strictly religious affair. Recall that Jesus is actually quoted in the bible telling men to leave their wives and follow him. It's a later addition.

I realize at this point the churches like to imagine they have the monopoly on marriage, but it's really a state affair through and through, even in our societies.

That said, I agree with you entirely that no church should be forced to perform a marriage. That's why those of us who don't belong to churches get married by the state and have equally valid marriage licenses. A religious ceremony still does not confer real marriage on a couple; it's a civil matter, and it's still called "marriage".
posted by Hildegarde at 8:58 AM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for all the feedback and responses so far! Other than the side-bar issue that's popped up (sorry, wasn't my intent) everyone's input is giving me some great ways to think about approaching the issue again.

FWIW, yes I was out to my friends while in the military. I played a careful game of 'Pick Who to Tell'. I never saw or experienced any hostility towards homosexuals, including anything against some individuals who were, shall we say, rather obvious? I guess I was lucky in that regard because the problems some of you say you experienced I simply never did... I was accepted by those I told (granted, I was very careful about who I told) and it was basically a non-issue.

Thanks again for the feedback and suggestions... I'll do my best to weave them into a sensible approach.
posted by matty at 9:00 AM on September 5, 2008


[this thread is in metatalk - anything not specifically ON TOPIC needs to go there, please, thank you]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:38 AM on September 5, 2008


Show them the movie Tying the Knot. You probably won't have to say a word.
posted by notashroom at 11:24 AM on September 5, 2008


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