Yesterday I was spending a day out with my partner and our two friends. After a fun-filled day of antiquing, We went back to our friend’s house and began talking. As we were talking, we got on the topic of LGBTQ rights and one of his friends was not completely clear why the fight for equality was happening or what rights exactly the LGBTQ community and supporters are fighting for. I thought this would make for an interesting blog because it is important for those who aren’t too sure, LGBTQ or not, to understand not only why we are fighting, but what we are fighting for. It is very important to note that my friend who was asking these questions is a very big supporter of LGBTQ equality, just didn’t know all the information regarding our fight for equality.
The conversation started with the four of us discussing the NOH8 photo shoot my partner and I put together this past July. I started explaining what the NOH8 project was about and discussed Proposition 8 passing in California in 2008. This brought up many questions she had regarding equality.
We started talking about marriage, which is probably the “most well known” right that is thought of when talking about LGBTQ equality. She asked a very valid and very simple question to my partner and I. She asked “Why do you two want to get married?” It took me by surprise a bit because no one has ever asked me that question before. I answered “well besides the fact that I love him, it is a right guaranteed to most Americans, but not to all”. She responded with “So you want to get married just because you can’t?” I responded by explaining that I don’t want to get married just because I’m not allowed too, I want to have the right to get married to the person that I love and want to spend my life with. I explained that to live in America where “All men are created equal“, we are still not being treated equally. I told her that I am required to pay taxes, I am required to follow the same laws as everyone else, yet I am not afforded the same right as everyone else, how is this fair?
We then started discussing the many rights automatically awarded simply by legally marrying someone. These additional rights are also what the LGBTQ community is actively fighting for, not simply marriage. The first example I brought up was death benefits. I mentioned that my partner and I could live for 50 years together and if one of us passes, the survivor would not have access to death benefits. When a spouse in a marriage dies, the surviving spouse is awarded Social Security benefits called RSDI (Retirement, Survivors, Disability Insurance). Individuals in same-sex relationships don’t have this right. With the death benefits, we also discussed wills. When a partner in a same-sex relationship dies, they can award their belongings to their partner, but since they are not “legally connected” to each other, next of kin to the deceased can easily contest the will, therefore taking everything from the surviving partner. If marriage equality was passed, these would be an additional rights that the LGBTQ community currently doesn’t have.
The next topic was hospital visitation. I mentioned that if my partner suffered a serious accident and was in critical condition at the hospital, the hospital is not required by law to allow me to see him. In many cases, they will only allow family members to see the patient. Once again, I mentioned that I could be completely shut out from seeing the person I love, potentially their final moments, because my country does not believe my relationship to be valid, therefore denying my the right to have hospital visitation.
We then discussed employment discrimination. I mentioned to my friend that it is completely legal in Michigan for my employer to fire me because I am gay. I told her that being LGBT is not a protected class under the discrimination laws in Michigan. This is a great example of a right that the LGBTQ community is fighting for that is not connected to marriage equality. Another example of discrimination against me as well as many other LGBT individuals in Michigan and many other states is housing rights. My partner and I are currently looking to move in together. It is completely legal in Michigan for someone to deny us an apartment because we are a same-sex couple or refuse to sell us their house because we are gay. It is also completely legal for a landlord to evict us simply because we are gay.
My friend, who as I mentioned before has always supported my partner and now his relationship with me, did not understand that the LGBTQ community has so many rights denied to us. Rights that a heterosexual person might not even be aware of simply because they automatically have them. A heterosexual couple would never question whether they could be evicted because of their relationship. They would never think twice if they could see their spouse in the hospital or even whether they could get married or not. These right, all of them mentioned and many more, are automatically granted to someone who is heterosexual. I told her that the LGBTQ community is actively being denied these rights and are actively being told that our relationships, our love and our lives are not as valid nor as important as someone who is straight. This is why we are fighting. We are fighting not just to get married, we are fighting because we are EQUAL, we are VALID, and we are just as IMPORTANT as any other human who walks this Earth, and we WILL be treated that way. We will not stop fighting until we, the LGBTQ community and every other human is treated equally.