Recognize gay unions

Paul D. Cain is president of Stonewall Democrats of Northern Nevada, and a monthly columnist for Outlands Magazine.

On March 30, 2004, Kurt and I intended to be legally married in San Francisco. But then the California Supreme Court prohibited the city from conducting same-sex marriages until legal arguments are presented later this spring.

We have been a couple for almost 15 years and could hardly be any more committed or devoted to one another. But because we are two men, we can’t share the same legal rights and responsibilities of marriage as a heterosexual married couple. We have taken appropriate steps to protect ourselves legally, hiring lawyers to draft powers of attorney, wills, and the like—rights automatically granted to married couples. Our families, friends, and church recognize and respect the gravitas of our relationship. But to our local, state and national government, we remain legal strangers.

Does anyone remember Rick Rockwell and Darva Conger from Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? Or, more recently, how about Britney Spears, who married her childhood friend in Las Vegas (and separated within 55 hours)? From the moment they said “I do,” both couples received more than one thousand legal rights from which Kurt and I are automatically excluded, and many we can’t obtain under any circumstances. But “marriage rights” advocates have no qualms about these marriages that arguably harm the institution’s sanctity.

When Dubya interrupted the Today show in February to support a federal constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, I asked Kurt, “So, when are we going to San Francisco?” Our nation has never written class discrimination into its Constitution; rather, as we discover where it proves insufficiently inclusive, we craft amendments to ensure legal parity. The Founding Fathers designed our Constitution to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority—were this not the case, women might still be denied the right to vote, and blacks might remain seated at the backs of buses.

As for what to call same-sex unions, I’m no semantic purist: “same-sex marriages,” “domestic partnerships,” “civil unions"—heck, call it “Green Eggs and Ham,” so long as lesbian and gay couples receive the same legal protections as every other married couple.

No one is asking Nevada to issue gay marriage licenses—or even civil unions, as in Vermont. Nevada is no longer a progressive state in this area (even if we once scandalized the nation with “quickie” divorces). However, if a local gay couple is legally united anywhere in the world, they could file a lawsuit to discover whether the Nevada Supreme Court would deem their marriage valid here. While Nevada voters recently approved Question 2, prohibiting same-sex marriage, no couple has challenged its constitutionality. The results could prove interesting.

I love Kurt; Kurt loves me. We don’t want to destroy marriage. We simply desire equal access to its rights and responsibilities. What’s so threatening about that?