29 June 2013

What Does The Supreme Court Ruling On Proposition 8 Really Mean?

Last night, I volunteered with the Anti-Violence Project.  Two fellow volunteers and I were doing an outreach in the Village. At the end of it, we found ourselves by the Stonewall Inn.  Exactly 44 years earlier, on the night of 28 July 1969, drag queens, street hustlers and other patrons of the bar resisted an NYPD raid on the premises.  

A crowd commemorated that event.  They also celebrated the Supreme Court ruling that, in essence, rendered Proposition 8 null and void.  Some proclaimed  that there was indeed "marriage equality".

I didn't want to be a party-pooper.  So I didn't tell anyone what I was thinking:  "Not so fast!"  Yes, same-sex marriages can resume in California. But it still means that only fourteen states allow such unions.  Admittedly, those states include two of the three most populous, and all of New England. Still, we cannot talk about "equality" at this point for a number of reasons.

Same-sex couples who are married in New York, California or any other state that allows such unions still have to think about what they would do if they were to move to a state that doesn't even have civil unions.  If one member of the couple has a job with benefits, he or she probably would not be able to name his or her partner as a beneficiary.  Also, what if one of them gets sick? Would the other be able to visit him or her in a hospital?  

Actually, the couple wouldn't have to move to face the hospital visitation dilemma:  All they'd have to do is take a vacation or other trip to one of those states.  Or, what if they have a kid and that kid manages to get lost or otherwise separated?  Would authorities in such a state rule that the couple weren't really the kid's parents and not return that kid to them?

Things are even more complicated for us transfolk.  Idaho, Tennessee and Ohio only recognize the gender to which people are assigned at birth:  They will not even amend a birth certificate (let alone issue a new one) to ratify a gender "change."  Not surprisingly, those states don't allow same-sex marriages (or even civil unions).  So, what if I were to marry a man and one of us were to get a job in, say, Columbus or Memphis?  For all intents and purposes, we'd be nothing more than roommates. So, for example, if I were to get a job in a university, my husband could not be a beneficiary on my health insurance policy.  Or, if he were to buy or rent housing, my name could not be on the deed or lease.

And what if we had a kid?

In brief, the Supreme Court decision, while an important step, doesn't even come close to bringing about equality.  I believe it will be achieved one day, but I'm not sure of how.  Will the Federal government grant same-sex couples all of the same benefits and privileges enjoyed by heterosexual married couples?  Will it recognize gender identity in the same way as, say, New York now does?  If so, could the Supreme Court rule that all states have to adopt the same standards?  If the Court were to do that, I can imagine some states putting up quite a fight.