A little over a week ago, Larry Kramer raised eyebrows and objections when he wrote the following in the Los Angeles Times.
Gays do not realize that the more we become visible, the more we come out of the closet, the more we are hated. Don’t those of you straights who claim not to hate us have a responsibility to denounce the hate? Why is it socially acceptable to joke about “girlie men” or to discriminate against us legally with “constitutional” amendments banning gay marriage? Because we cannot marry, we can pass on only a fraction of our estates, we do not have equal parenting rights and we cannot live with a foreigner we love who does not have government permission to stay in this country. These are the equal protections that the Bill of Rights proclaims for all?
Why do you hate us so much that you will not permit us to legally love? I am almost 72, and I have been hated all my life, and I don’t see much change coming.
I think your hate is evil.
What do we do to you that is so awful? Why do you feel compelled to come after us with such frightful energy? Does this somehow make you feel safer and legitimate? What possible harm comes to you if we marry, or are taxed just like you, or are protected from assault by laws that say it is morally wrong to assault people out of hatred? The reasons always offered are religious ones, but certainly they are not based on the love all religions proclaim.
And even if your objections to gays are religious, why do you have to legislate them so hatefully? Make no mistake: Forbidding gay people to love or marry is based on hate, pure and simple.
I’d go one step further and say that punishing gays & lesbians for loving. Is based on nothing more than hatred. For an example, and a fresh one at that, I don’t have to look much further than Minnesota, where the Minnesota Family Council is opposing hospital visitation rights for gay couples. [Via Box Turtle Bulletin.]
Being able to visit a loved one in a hospital is something many can take for granted. Gay partners say they can be denied access to their partners in critical situations.
A Senate committee will soon consider a new law that would guarantee that access at all hospitals.
… Conservative groups are fighting the proposal. Their concern is not about visitation, but putting anything into law that acknowledges same sex partnerships.
“What we object to is the creation of these domestic partner statuses, which is really marriage by another name and that’s what we see they are attempting to do”, said Tom Prichard of the Minnesota Family Council.
Gay rights groups contend it isn’t about gay marriage, but support at a critical time.
“This is just a bill that has to do with something that we know could make people’s lives better”, DeGroot said.
Understand this. Conservatives in Minnesota are arguing that granting hospital visitation to same-sex couples is a threat to marriage. That’s only slightly different than saying that same-sex couples should be barred from visiting one another in the hospital, but saying instead that same-sex couples should not have codified right to hospital visitation.
I’ve no doubt that representatives of the Minnesota Family Council would say, publicly at least, that they don’t think same-sex partners should be prohibited from being with one another, when one is ill or receiving care. However, the reality is that without a legally defined status that includes that, same-sex couples can be denied that right. And if they are denied visitation, they will have no legal recourse because they have no legal status that grants them that right.
It means that stories like what happened to Bill Flanigan will happen, and when they do there will be nothing those same-sex couples can do about it. It means that some same-sex couple can be kept apart by hospital staff, even when one of them is dying.
In October 2000, Bill Flanigan’s longtime partner, Robert Daniel, was admitted to the University of Maryland Medical System’s Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. He was suffering complications from AIDS. The men, who resided in California, were on their way to visit Flanigan’s sister when Daniel became seriously ill.
When Flanigan asked to see his partner and confer with his doctors, the hospital staff allegedly told him that only family members were allowed to do so, and he was not what they considered family, according to Flanigan.
In California, the two men were signed up with that state’s domestic partnership registry. Flanigan also had durable power of attorney that gave him authority to express Daniel’s wishes for medical treatment, including Daniel’s request not to have any life-sustaining procedures performed.
But neither of these facts allegedly made any difference.
Flanigan was finally allowed to see Daniel once Daniel’s mother and other family members arrived, he says. By then, Daniel had a breathing tube inserted, which contravened his wish to not have any life-sustaining procedures, Flanigan charges. His eyes were also taped closed, he says.
Daniel died without having a chance to say goodbye to his partner.
It means that people like my friend who got turned away at the emergency room door and sent to retrieve his legal documents before he could enter, when his husband was rushed there after collapsing, could be kept on the other side of that door even as their loved ones lay dying.
It was the morning of our move, and I was checking email while I waited for the movers and various other technical people (phone, cable, etc.) to arrive when I got an email from a friend of ours letting me know about his partner’s funeral. They were a couple of gay dads we met through friends, and followed through their adoption process. We celebrated their son’s adoption with them, attended their wedding, and have kept in contact with them. And now one of them had suddenly died.
The surviving partner told me the story above yesterday. In the midst of all that was mentioned before, while his husband lay unconscious in the hospital, he had to leave, go home, retrieve the legal documents proving his medical power of attorney, and return to the hospital to prove that he had a legal right to be by his husband’s side and to know what was going on.
…My friend went home, retrieved his legal paper and got back in the hospital in time to be with his husband, who never regained consciousness. Luckily for him, those legal documents were recognized.
It already means that some of us who are turned away at the emergency room, and sent to fetch our legal documents (Do heterosexual couples have to show their marriage license in order to see one another in the hospital?) won’t make it back in time. Like what happened the couple I wrote about in October, when one was sent home to retrieve their documents, even while the other partner was being rushed to the hospital.
John Crisci and Michael Tartaglia, his partner of 33 years, thought they had done everything right. They had wills and other paperwork drawn up giving each other the right to make medical and financial decisions for each other, and specifying which relatives should inherit their assets when they die.
They packed the papers for long trips. Crisci didn’t have the documents with him when Tartaglia collapsed at a gym on the morning on his 70th birthday nearly two years ago. An EMT suggested he run home to get the paperwork rather than risk getting into a dispute with hospital officials over medical decisions.
Crisci knew he was too late when a doctor and chaplain were waiting to talk to him at the hospital. To him, the story shows why same-sex couples should be able to register as domestic partners and get many of the same rights as married couples under Colorado law.
“You don’t lose that extra 30 or 40 minutes which may be the last time you can hold on to each other,” Crisci said.
Understand that MFC is stopping short of saying that what happened to Bill Flanigan, to my friend, and to Crsci and Tartaglia should have happened. Again, I think they’re savvy enough to not to say that publicly. (They could yet surprise me.) But, essentially, what they are saying is that if situations like these do happen, there doesn’t need to be anything in particular done about it. They’re saying that it doesn’t need to be prohibited from happening. They’re saying that there shouldn’t be any penalty for it either.
Also keep in mind the words used by the MFC spokesperson, “What we object to is the creation of these domestic partner statuses, which is really marriage by another name and that’s what we see they are attempting to do”, said Tom Prichard of the Minnesota Family Council.” It sounds quite a bit like the wording of amendments like the one passed in Virginia, that would prohibit civil unions, domestic partnerships and other agreements or contracts “purporting to bestow the privileges of marriage.” Indeed, in a state where such an amendment has passed it would buttress an argument like the one offered by MFC.
Letting someone like Bill Flanigan, John Crisci, my friend, or even myself and/or my husband be at the hospital bedside of the people we love is too great a threat to the marriage of our friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens to be allowed. Therefore, it’s best that we’re kept apart, and that we have no legal recourse if we are kept apart.
It is better if we suffer and die apart from each other.
From a religious perspective, is it really possible to love someone that you don’t see as an equal? Is it possible to see someone as less than equal without hatred, or without at least contempt? If so, how?
From my perspective, either you see me as equal or you don’t. If you don’t, as far as I’m concerned it amounts to hate – and the actions taken to maintain inequality stem from hatred. I don’t care if it’s for religious reasons. If you can’t see me as equal – and treat me as equal – then you have to see me as (even slightly) less than human. You can’t really see me as equal and still deny me equal treatment. That’s called having your cake and eating it too.
I’ve heard all I can stand of “love the sinner, hate the sin.” My gayness is not what I do. It’s a part of who I am – who I’ve always been. It’s what I feel – have always felt – in my heart. Even if I became celibate (giving up my partner and my son), I would still be the same gay person. I would still feel the same in my heart.
My gayness is not something I do. It’s part of who I am, and what is in my heart. Hate it, and you hate who I am. You hate what is in my heart. You hate me.
It’s that simple. Isn’t it?
And I understand what people like the members of PFLAG are saying when they respond to Kramer with this argument.
Hate for GLBT people exists, and we (along with all PFLAG members) feel it. This is about our loved ones and ourselves. There are countless changes to be made to institutions as well as hearts and minds. But it will not happen with a blanket indictment of all straight people. It will happen when we make it clear that they are welcome to join us, as they have always been, and there is a role for them in our movement. This has been at the core of PFLAG since our inception in 1973, and our new Straight for EqualitySM project specifically focuses on welcoming even more straight allies to help PFLAG and every other fair-minded organization create real change and end GLBT discrimination in every community across the country.
These things happen because there are many straight people who don’t hate. Our collective power is a united voice of parents, family members, and straight people together with GLBT people.
And they’re right. But there are also too many heterosexuals who don’t hate but who vote for politicians who hate or who cow-tow to people who hate. They would do well to pay attention to what the opponents of marriage equality have in mind for heterosexuals who don’t conform to their beliefs, from Ohio barring unmarried persons from bringing domestic violence charges (with the support of Citizens for Community Values) to conservatives in Virginia trying to make it harder for heterosexuals to get divorced.
Those heterosexuals would do well to heed what Chris Hedges had to say about the anti-gay attacks of the religious right.
These attacks mask a sinister agenda that has nothing to do with sexuality. It has to do with power. The radical Christian right — the most dangerous mass movement in American history — has built a binary worldview of command and submission wherein male leaders, who cannot be questioned and claim to speak for God, are in control and all others must follow. Any lifestyle outside the traditional model of male and female is a threat to this hierarchical male power structure. Women who do not depend on men for their identity and their sexuality, who live outside a male power relationship, challenge this pervasive cult of masculinity, as do men who find tenderness and love with other men as equals. The lifestyle of gays and lesbians is intolerable to the Christian right because its existence is a threat to the movement’s chain of command, one they insist was ordained by God.
… This cult of masculinity keeps all ambiguity, especially sexual ambiguity, in check. It fosters this world of binary opposites: God and man, the saved and the unsaved, the church and the world, Christianity and secular humanism, and male and female. There runs through this radical belief system a dread of disorder and chaos. The belief in a binary universe helps believers avoid confronting the confusion of human existence. Reality, when it is defined in these absolutes, is made predictable and understandable. All configurations of human life that do not conform to the rigid Christian model, such as homosexuality, are forms of disorder and tools of Satan and must be abolished. A world that can be predicted and understood, a world that has clear markers, can be managed and controlled. This petrified world of fixed, immutable and established roles is a world where people, many of them damaged by bouts with failure and despair, can bury their chaotic and fragmented personalities. They can live with the illusion that they are strong, whole and protected. Those who do not fit into these rigid categories, who are not subservient to dominant Christian males, must be proselytized, converted and “cured” through quack therapy.
Or if, if all else fails, punished for not towing the line. After all, if you don’t want to know the pain of being kept out of your spouse’s hospital room, then you should “stop being gay.”
Kramer may have tarred too many heterosexuals with that broad sweep of his rhetorical brush, but he also hit hit some of the right targets dead-on.
Perhaps not all heterosexuals hate gay people, but when it comes to those who do, can we finally call it hatred? Even if their objections are religious, as Kramer pointed out, they need not be so hatefully legislated. And as I’ve pointed out before, their religious beliefs need not be treated with any more deference than any other religious beliefs or mythology.