Mad Vow Disease, Part II – The Progressive, 12/30/2003

FYI: The Summer of Gay has been extended into the Year of the Queer. Another heads up: Mad Vow Disease, once limited to wholesome, unimpeachable gay couples earnestly seeking to take on the rights and responsibilities of marriage, has jumped the pen and crossed into the general population. There the unfortunate symptoms are frothing apocalypticism, fractured reasoning, knee jerking, and involuntary eye rolling. It ain’t pretty.

After the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling that the Constitution did not ban gay marriage, it was likened to moral chaos, nuclear war, partial birth abortion and the extinction of the human race by Bill Bennett, Gary Bauer, the Focus on other People’s Family, the frowning Concerned Women, and others. The Red Sox “Curse of the Bambino” was not mentioned. They all seemed to be doing variations on the talking points memo circulated by Wedgemaster Karl Rove.

Columnist David Brooks opined in his New York Times column that marriage makes “us better than we deserve to be.” I was with him until he said that marriage at its best allows couples to say to each other: “Love you? I AM you.” Is it just me, or is that really creepy? He said that gays should not be denied this “opportunity,” and that “we should insist on gay marriage.” Holy codependent crisis, Brooksman! Thanks, but no thanks on the forced nuptialization.

The media, when they weren’t giving the O.J. treatment to Michael Jackson, were parroting more Rove power points. They announced that the issue of gay marriage was going to be a big problem for the Democratic Presidential candidates. Following their script, many Dems acted as if it were and did nothing to clear up the murk. Their campaigns announced that, and I’m conflating wildly here, they were not in favor of gay marriage, despite having gay relatives, but they were in favor of civil unions and they hated that little upstart Confederate flag-waving front-running Vermont governor for bringing the whole thing up in the first place. Don’t ask, don’t tell. Want to see my prescription drug plan?

There were some bright spots. When Jerry “” Falwell faced off against Barney Frank on CNN, he conceded, “I’m not in favor of putting people in jail for what they do in their bedrooms.” He had been just a few months ago, but Lawrence v. Texas must have converted him. Polls found that while people generally were more favorable toward gays, gay marriage gave them the heebie-jeebies. Hold that first thought. People are more favorable to gays!? Progress has been made!

The problem with all the convoluted, trying to have it both ways, hair-splitting arguments against gay marriage is that it involves people. How inconvenient.

In the midst of all this marriage mishegas, one of my best friends was dealing with the sad-beyond-sad details of the death of her partner of twenty-seven years, a woman who thought marriage was an abomination and who often joked that “married” is “marred” with an I.

The day my inbox overflowed with messages about the Massachusetts decision, I received two e-mails from my friend. In her morning note, she told me she had just gotten a call from Human Resources at the university where they both taught. They were holding her partner’s last paycheck and needed an affidavit from a RECOGNIZED (her caps) next of kin to release it.

That afternoon, she e-mailed me that New York State laws say that even if someone has filed a will, you have to send a letter requesting a waiver of contest of will to next of kin. That meant, in this case, to her partner’s mother, who had fought with my friend over care and do-not-resuscitate orders during her partner’s yearlong battle with a brain tumor.

Apparently, we do need a piece of paper from the City Hall. Not to keep us tried and true. But to claim our due.

Kate “Visit my ‘Divorces R Us’ kiosk in Provincetown!” Clinton is a humorist.