Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Excluders

From the Miami Herald:

Domestic partnerships could be officially recognized by Miami-Dade government this year, guaranteeing hospital visitation rights and allowing county workers to buy health insurance for their partners.

”It’s wrong to deny anyone health insurance or to deny anyone hospital visitation rights,” said Heddy Peña, executive director of SAVE, Miami-Dade County’s leading gay-rights group. ”When someone is at their most vulnerable, they want to know that their family can see them when they’re in the ICU ward in a coma.”

Five of the 13 county commissioners cosponsored the measure — Chairman Bruno Barreiro and members Audrey Edmonson, Carlos Gimenez, Sally Heyman and Katy Sorenson. Many other commissioners said Tuesday they had not seen the item and would not comment.

At least one, Joe Martinez, said he would oppose the bill.

”I just don’t believe in it,” he said, declining to elaborate.

Any pair of unmarried adults who live together and are not related by blood could register as domestic partners, regardless of sexual orientation. The bill insists the partnerships would not ”be construed as recognizing or treating a domestic partnership as a marriage.”

Domestic partnerships are recognized in Broward and Palm Beach counties, and insurance benefits are offered in the Miami-Dade school district.

I’m curious as to what Commissioner Martinez means exactly when he says he doesn’t “believe in it.” Is that like he doesn’t believe that domestic partnerships exist, like some mythological beast, or does it mean that he has a problem with them based on some other reason, like religion or homophobia?

I don’t know Mr. Martinez, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that it’s the latter reason, in line with the thinking of the anti-gay crusaders that have been pushing the voters in Florida to add a ban on gay marriage to the state constitution and have fought against equal rights for gays and lesbians since the 1970’s.

”It’s just another effort to demean marriage,” said Anthony Verdugo, executive director of Miami-Dade’s Christian Family Coalition. ”Our gut feeling is that it’s pseudo-marriage, marriage-like — even though it says it isn’t.”

Leave it to the Christianists to blow it all out of proportion and throw in a dose of paranoid transference while they’re at it. How else can they stay relevant…and shake down the foolish and the gullible for money in the bargain?

I have never been able to get a cogent explanation out of these people as to how granting equal rights to every member of the community is somehow a threat to straight married people. As I’ve said over and over again, two people who agree to a mutual commitment to share the rights and responsibilities of life together regardless of their gender doesn’t threaten “traditional marriage,” it actually strengthens it. The sole purpose of marriage is not to merely procreate; we have ample examples that having babies does not magically create a family. But partnerships, be they gay or straight, are more than just two people sharing living quarters. They give each other a sense of stability and responsibility to each other that goes beyond that, and that helps strengthen the community and can even serve as an example to straight couples; if they see that two men or two women can have a successful and fulfilling life together in spite of the odds against them wrought by bigotry and bureaucratic intransigence, perhaps they can get past their own problems as well.

What I think really lies behind the anti-gay marriage advocates’ fears has little to do with the so-called “demeaning of marriage.” After all, Britney Spears and plenty of other straight people have pretty well cornered that market. Nor does it have to do with redefining marriage, since that has been going on at a pretty steady pace since the institution was founded. It has to do with the basic human trait to want to feel superior to someone else. It makes some people feel better about themselves if they can say to other people, be they gay or straight, black or white, Jewish or Gentile, female or male, “you can’t join our club.” It may make them feel that it makes them exclusive, but what I really think is behind it is that once they open the doors to others, they’re afraid that the new members will actually show them up and prove that they — the excluders — are not as good as the people they tried to keep out.