There are too many reasons why marriage equality is important to write about in any one article. And there are countless reasons why marriage equality is important even in states where marriage is legal. I chose to focus on just one example, from my research: immigration.
Hospital visiting privileges, inheritance, income taxes, health insurance... There are more than 1,000 restrictions that gay married couples face because of the Federal law that prohibits recognition of gay marriages (the Defense of Marriage Act). A touching love story was sent to me by a woman in her 60's. Not being allowed to marry had deeply affected her entire adult life, and her lost love's life. Civil unions, or even state marriages, could not help her:
We met at a teachers' training college in Asia when I was in the Peace Corps. She was a teacher there. I served an extra term to be with her. Then I brought her back with me to New York, where she pursued a Master’s degree in education. My parents liked her and saw our love and affection for each other.
When she finished her degree and thus lost her student visa, she had no choice but to leave the country and go home. This was before the women’s rights and gay/lesbian rights movements of the late sixties, and we just didn’t know what to do. Obviously, if we had been a straight couple, we could have married and solved the immigration problem that way, but marriage is not an option open to two women.
I stayed behind and became involved in the politics of those civil rights movements, along with anti-Vietnam War sentiments. I was in two long-term relationships with women during those twenty-five years of our separation. But thoughts of my lost love, and the deep bond of love that we had shared, always shadowed my other relationships.
I went back to visit her in Asia a couple years ago, and we renewed our romance. Again we are stuck with immigration requirements that cannot be met because we cannot marry, so we have lived together six months out of each year since we renewed. We are very happy being together again—a great gift.
And how much happier her reunion would be if she could live with her true love all the time, as her spouse!
June 26, 2013 UPDATE! DOMA is gone! Married gay couples now qualify for Green Cards. A happy day!
Copyright Nancy Kalish, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.