Guest commentary: Marriage should be a right for everyone
By: From Rich Sill, French River, Lake County News Chronicle
Last month my wife Terry and I celebrated our 29th anniversary. Our wedding ceremony was a simple affair that took place on a windy Saturday morning in the apple orchard next to our house. Peg and Dale were our witnesses. Terry’s mom and my dad were also in attendance. That was it. It was not a long guest list. The legal part of the ceremony was conducted by the Clerk of the Court from Two Harbors who took the time to perform it on the way to his son’s piano lesson in Duluth. The ceremony itself took only a few minutes and when it was over….just like that…..we were married. We celebrated the occasion by sharing a bottle of champagne and having a piece of chocolate torte cake.
In many ways our life afterwards went on as it had before. Terry opted to keep her last name and I kept mine. Two days after the ceremony I was back at work and Terry back to her classes at UMD. One thing, however, was different, very different. We were now officially recognized as being a legally united couple.
The fact that we loved each other and were committed to each other was a given, but no matter how deep our love or how strong our commitment, it did nothing legally to protect us. Getting married did that. In immediate terms it automatically extended my health care insurance to Terry (not an insignificant consideration since she was uncovered at the time). In the long term, of course, it represented a whole lot more. The simple fact is that the act of marriage in Minnesota automatically confers over 515 rights and responsibilities to couples once they are joined together (see www.project 515.org).
I am clearly aware that for most people marriage is not viewed only in utilitarian or practical terms. But it is impossible to deny that the conferring of rights and responsibilities, one to another, is not a major part of it. Stating such, I do not mean to trivialize what to many is a hugely important day in their life. I also understand and accept that marriage, to a significant portion of our society, is an event steeped in sacred meaning and religious significance. That fact, of course, applies not just to those who are straight it can also hold that meaning for those in the GLBT community as well.
In light of that, limiting the ceremony of marriage only to couples of the opposite gender seems clearly unfair. An even stronger argument could be made that since the “institution” of marriage is the sole mechanism our state recognizes as the means to form a legal union, being prohibited from marrying restricts the extension of both civil rights and legal protections for a significant portion of our citizenry.
Unfortunately, the marriage amendment on the ballot this fall supports this unfairness and goes even further by attempting to imbed inequality and discrimination permanently into our constitution.
Terry and I have made this area our home for more than 30 years. Over that time we have come to know many people, straight yes, but gay as well. Just like us they are a part of this community. Most importantly, they always have been.
They’re our neighbors, our co-workers, and our friends. They form the faces of those who wait on us at restaurants, build our homes, care for our kids, take care of our elderly and rescue us when were are injured or in trouble. They are not the “other”, they are really a part of “us”.
I would hope that when you step into the voting booth this November you will pause a moment to think of those faces. Voting “No” is a vote for those faces. Voting “No” is a vote for what is fair and right. Quite simply, voting “No” is really a vote for all of us.