17 November 2008

Do the Right Thing

In the wake of Proposition 8's passage in California, lesbian and gay people have certainly had an impact in the public arena. You've seen on the news protests, rallies, and marches staged across the country by those of us who seek to achieve equal rights so that we may enjoy the financial and emotional stability in our relationships that can only come with some form of legal recognition. Some of these protests have been directed at churches and people of faith, while others have focused on our courthouses, city halls, statehouses, and capitols. On Saturday, my partner, my sister, my nephew, and I attended a rally for equality at Salt Lake City Hall. I was proud to see so many people of our generation stand up in solidarity with us as we continue the process of seeking legal recognition for our relationships. For those of you who attended or who have supported us through all this, thank you so much, and we love you and are so grateful for your solidarity.

Our words and actions were peaceful -- sure there was anger, and we are right to be angry, but I think I speak for many of us when I say the mood was hopeful and optimistic, because I feel that justice will prevail in the end. But it will take the work of all of us to make it happen.

Some of the protests have been aimed at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While I understand and sympathize with the anger that has been directed at them for their strident support of the proposition, and the near insistence that their members donate time and money to the cause, I do not feel the directing wrath at a religious institution is effective or appropriate. Certainly any violence aimed at a religious group undermines our message of freedom and equality. But there is something we can do -- we can undertake a constructive effort to change the law in this great State, by working in dialogue with the LDS Church. Below is a quote from a recent Equality Utah email:

"Throughout the recent election cycle, the LDS Church has demonstrated its willingness to participate in political issues by asking its members to do all they can do, including donating their means and their time, to support California's Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution and eliminated gay couples right to marry by defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

The LDS Church has articulated it is not "anti-gay" but rather pro-marriage and it "does not object to rights for same-sex couples regarding hospitalization and medical care, fair housing and employment rights, or probate rights." On November 5th, Elder L. Whitney Clayton stated the LDS Church does not oppose "civil unions or domestic partnerships." In response to these statements, Equality Utah is drafting legislation for the 2009 General Session of the Utah Legislature to address each of the issues mentioned by the LDS Church."

To me, this is the essence of the issue. Robert and I have been together for more than 9 years. In that time, we have bought a home, shared in the expense of a car, dealt with medical emergencies, invested, and experienced all the joys and agonies that any couple, gay or straight, who lives together is bound to experience over time. Yet we have none of the rights that can be obtained with a simple $50 marriage license. We can work with estate attorneys to assemble a series of legal structures that provide a thin approximation of the legal protections afforded by a marriage license, but at great expense -- in some cases $3,000 or more.

I think we need to take the LDS Church and others at their word, and pursue the recognition of equal rights in the State of Utah. Five bills will be presented in the Utah State Legislature this winter that will address the injustices we face, economic and moral. One of these bills will establish a system of civil unions in the State, so that Rob and I and others like us could gain the legal protections we deserve as a couple -- since we face all the health, financial, and legal risks currently.

The LDS Church has indicated that they will not stand in the way of civil unions, and I think the time has come to achieve this in the State of Utah. Even those of you who may be reluctant to allow same-sex marriages can appreciate the fundamental economic and social justice issues we face because we have NO legal recourse. I need your help to make this change in Utah. For those of you who live in our great State, I suggest two things:

1. Sign this on-line petition from Equality Utah:

2. Write your State Representative and Senator. I can help you find them if you don't know. Also write the incoming Speaker of the House, David Clark, the incoming Senate President Mike Waddoups, and Governor Huntsman. Tell them it's time to recognize that equal rights and equal protection under the law do not challenge anyone's values.

Here are their addresses:

Rep. David Clark: 1831 RED MOUNTAIN, SANTA CLARA, UT 84765
Sen. Mike Waddoups: 2868 West. Matterhorn Dr. West Jordan UT 84084
Governor Jon M. Huntsman, Jr.: PO Box 142220 Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-2220

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter.



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