Sunday, August 31, 2008


By now we all know what Obama said about us in his acceptance speech, but here it is in total:

I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in a hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.

Now I can't criticize the "live lives free of discrimination" part...amen to that. But as for hospital visitation, don't all hospital patients deserve visits from the people they love?? Don't all gay people deserve this...and isn't marriage a completely different issue?? By putting these two concepts in the same sentence, Obama has fallen into the rhetorical morass created by the marriage equality movement.

The rhetoric goes roughly like this...A lesbian is denied the ability to see her hospitalized partner; spouses are allowed to visit each other in the hospital; therefore lesbian (and gay) couples must be allowed to marry so they can visit each other in the hospital. So then Obama steps into this conversation, saying that we can't agree on marriage but we can agree that couples who can't marry should still be able to visit each other in the hospital.

But try this. Hospital accreditation standards include those who play a significant role in a patient's life, even if not legally related, within the definition of family. Neither gay nor straight couples should have to marry to visit each other in the hospital. Gay people without partners need assurance that those they love and consider family will be allowed to visit them in the hospital. Consider that LGBT people may be more likely than heterosexuals to move away from unsupportive families of origin and/or to more accepting cities or towns.

If we make any discussion of hospital visitation policies about same-sex couples, we are going to miss the vast numbers of unpartnered LGBT people who don't want their estranged parents given hospital access while their closest friends are kept out or who don't want to be left all alone because their families of origin live at a great distance and their families are choice are excluded.

In 2007, Virginia passed a law that requires hospitals to allow patients to choose their visitors. Gay and straight; coupled and not. That's the law Obama should support...along with a federal advance health care directive registry. He should also support LGBT equality..including in access to marriage...but not in the same sentence.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


As I wrote in May, doctors in California hoped to escape liability for refusing to provide fertility treatment to Lupita Benitez by arguing that her unmarried status, rather than her sexual orientation, led to their denial. They also argued that they had a religious objection to treating her and that this was protected by the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom. This week, the California Supreme Court issued its opinion.

The Court ruled unanimously that the doctors could not claim a First Amendment basis for denying fertility treatment to lesbians. State law made clear that businesses could not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and the doctors were required to comply with that law. So far, so good. But at the time the denial of treatment took place, discrimination on the basis of marital status was not banned in California. So the court's ruling says that the doctors can still defend the Benitez lawsuit by arguing as a factual matter that they denied her treatment because she was single, not because she was a lesbian.

When asked whether she would treat a married lesbian, one of the defendant doctors said, "I don't know." But that's the wrong question, isn't it? Marital status shouldn't determined who has access to fertility treatment. That's the law now in California and should be the law everywhere.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


After a hiatus for my summer vacation, I'm back...and with some urgent news. Arkansas voters will have an initiative on their November ballot that, if it passes, will ban all unmarried couples from adopting children or becoming foster parents. That's right. An unmarried heterosexual couple will have to marry, and a same-sex couple will be completely boxed out. (The initiative makes clear that only marriages recognized in Arkansas -- those between one man and one woman -- count). Also, as the words of the initiative make clear, a person will be unable to adopt or foster a child as an individual if he or she is living with an unmarried partner of any sex! This initiative is based on the right-wing marriage movement ideology that blames all our social problems on the decline of life-long heterosexual marriage...ideology I critique in my book.

The coalition fighting this needs your help now! Please get involved with Arkansas Families First.