Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Other Shoe Drops With a Thud

It was just over a month ago that Basic Rights Oregon and GLBT folk in our town were celebrating a rousing legal victory over discrimination, injustice and out-of-town conservative interest groups. Not only did the judge throw out the request to retroactively change the referendum process to put domestic partnerships on the November ballot, he also made domestic partnerships effective immediately, and available the next business day, sending same-sex couples into a dither as D.P.s became a real possibility.
And so the question was on the table, “Are we going to register as domestic partners, and if so, when?” Many assumed we’d be first in line (as we were when legal marriage made a short, magical appearance four years ago), friends sending us congratulatory missives without missing a beat. Newspapers lauded the victory as equality for gay couples, closing the door on injustice and putting “paid” to the same-sex marriage question, again.
But I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop.
I’ve felt guilty for my pessimistic perspective, though my wife is straight-up about her P.O.V.: she’s bitter, jaded and angry at being offered a second class substitute for marriage and wants no part of it, our pile of expensive paperwork making do for many of the rights that come with domestic partnership. While I’m unwilling to take a blind leap into legal partnership, I try to keep a stiff upper lip and send warm well wishes to those taking the partnership plunge. For many couples, it is their first jump into domesticated bliss (who deserve all the good Karma they can get), and for others just another in a long line of ceremonies-slash-pieces of paper, creating a trail of commitment in case of crises.
I just doubted that any domestic partnership paperwork would be valid for even as long as our marriage license was—just over a year—before it was declared legally nonexistent.
So it was with a resounding and unsurprising thud that the shoe dropped Friday when two Republican state legislators filed a proposed initiative to repeal Oregon’s domestic partnership law, and to be expected when two other Republican state representatives filed an initiative to repeal the law banning discrimination against gays in work, housing and public accommodation on the following Monday.
The socio-political roller coaster carrying domestic partners was off to a bumpy beginning, and I was glad we didn’t climb in for the ride. My heart and stomach simply couldn’t take it.
Four years ago, it felt natural, inevitable and right to jump into legal marriage (after seventeen years and three kids together), even when it morphed into a legal miasma, embedding us in a guerilla war between conservatives fighting for “family values” and progressive political groups seeking rights through legislation. But after attempting to maintain a positive outlook and a happy household while being blasted in the battle to keep our eventually annulled marriage legal, we were shell-shocked into immobility. Inaction is easy; all we have to do is stand still and say, “Umm,” whenever the topic of domestic partnership comes up, and mutter something about college aid packages and tax ramifications, but taking part in the fray is hard. Which makes me wonder what puts people like Rep. Kim Thatcher and Senator Gary George on a crusade to take away our second class legal protections, a separate but equal status that acknowledges our shared humanity and our right to not be legal strangers after two, ten or twenty-five years together, but not anything near the “M” word? What moves Rep. Sal Esquivel and Sen. Fred Girod strive to deny us our civil rights by repealing anti-discrimination legislation (common throughout the nation), that protects us from being fired, evicted or kicked off a bus based on the gender of the person we love? What motivates these four politicians to promote our vulnerability, our insecurity, our potential for harm from people who would take more direct action than initiatives to express their distaste for our kind, people who wouldn’t waste a moment before putting bigotry into action, except for legislation that makes it illegal?
Are the domestic partners curving around hairpin bends in the legal process experiencing pains in the neck and insecurity because someone wants to get re-elected, or because people really doubt our innate rights as human beings to protect our families from prejudice, homelessness, financial risk and being barred from busing downtown and going green? Could Messrs. Esquivel, Girod, George and Ms. Thatcher come into our home, meet our children, pet our dog, explain to us why they feel it is wrong for us to be able to visit one another in the hospital in a crises, make burial decisions and have children without expensive adoptions for the non-biological partner (they’d get an earful from our older kids on that issue) and still feel it was appropriate to deny us dignity?
The other shoe is dropped and the roller coaster carrying over thirteen hundred hopeful, optimistic couples is rolling after false starts and legal delays, with big bumps, grinding climbs, sudden drops, and an election in the offing. I’ll be cheering on the brave couples willing to take that ride.


Mo said...

We didn't take the plunge either, although we might still. Personally, I don't think these initiatives stand a chance, but the whole thought of going through another one of these elections is so hurtful.

bridgeout said...

Wow. This is the most eloquent and captivating summary of this whole situation I have read yet! I am glad that your post popped up in my "google alerts" on this whole OR. DP issue. Thank you for your perspective. We did get our DP, and now fasten our seatbelt and hope it doesn't turn out like it did in 2004.