Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Reality of Amendment 2

Christianists and homophobes in Florida said that passing Amendment 2 last November was necessary to protect families: “This amendment protects marriage as the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife and provides that no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.” Well, for one family, that mindset has caused enough pain and negligence to prompt a lawsuit against a hospital in Miami that refused to grant visitation rights to a dying woman’s partner.

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.

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.

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.

Jackson attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case on grounds that the hospital has no obligation to allow patients’ visitors.

The hospital’s reasoning — they’re doing people a favor by letting anyone in to see someone in the hospital — is cruel and inhuman on its face, and it’s made even worse because they wouldn’t recognize the legal documents that Ms. Langbehn had to prove that she was Ms. Pond’s legal guardian.

The conservatives and the fundamentalists like to imagine a nice gauzy world of Disneyland and Ozzie and Harriet, where the families are all made up of mommies and daddies and the kids are all gee-whiz cute and golly-gee happy and the Baby Jesus gurgles with joy at all the hetero-normality. But even straight families don’t all fall into the “traditional” mold, and for every lesbian couple that worries about whether or not their personal life will suddenly be the subject of scrutiny by the absolute strangers at a hospital, there’s a man and a woman living together who have the same basic question: will they let me in to be there when my partner needs me?

You can dress it up and call it “preserving the family,” but its intent was clear: Amendment 2 was meant to keep the LGBT community from attaining equal rights as citizens in the state of Florida. It passed, and the homophobes rejoiced because they struck a blow for life, liberty, and the suppression of icky sex, since they are incapable of separating the idea of being gay and getting laid. But in tossing this grenade of hetero-wholesomeness into the state constitution, they fragged their own, too, because now the state doesn’t have to recognize any relationship outside of one man, one woman, a white picket fence, and 2.5 children.

Let’s see what happens when an unmarried couple who happen to be straight shows up at the hospital and is denied visitation rights. Will the Christianists take up their cause?