One of Them…
Overheard at Legislative Hall in Dover: “I don’t get this marriage thing. We just gave them Civil Unions.”
THEM? What am I a space alien? A creature from the Lake Gerar lagoon? An undocumented worker from Mars?
It’s humiliating to be described as “them.” And just like all of the minority groups who have come before us and who will surely come after us, I’m sick of having neighbors think of us as THEM. OTHER. LESS THAN. UNEQUAL. SECOND CLASS.
I’m passionately, angrily, tiredly but hopefully done being THEM.
By the time you read this, lots of LGBT folks in Rehoboth and the surrounding communities will have traveled to Dover once again, this time before a state Senate committee, to plead for the right to be treated equally under Delaware law.
And to answer that snooty, attitudinal, bigoted woman at the State House, I say this, “While you grudgingly gave us civil unions, we were happy for that step. It truly did make us financially equal to married couples in Delaware, but it did not go far enough.”
Here is how I described the situation to the Delaware House of Representatives in Dover a few weeks ago:
“My partner and I have been together over 31 years. As young women, we bought a house, paid taxes, welcomed pets to our family, encouraged each other in our careers, spoiled our nieces and nephews, socialized with neighbors, managed our parents’ health crises’, turned middle aged, buried our first dog and cat, relocated to Delaware, weathered our own health crises, saved for retirement, said farewell to parents who saw us as married, adopted two new dogs, volunteered in our community, and just now became Medicare eligible—all of this, together.
We married first in Canada, when marriage equality became legal. We married again last year, with a big fat Jewish Wedding, recognized as marriage by our religious institution, but only as a civil union in Delaware. So neither ceremony gave us what we need most: a legally recognized marriage, equal to our heterosexually married neighbors.
Now, we’re retirees and sadly, just lost our remaining 15-year old Schnauzer. The dogs have been a benchmark for our 31 years. We urge the state to end our long run as lesser citizens with a second class term for our relationship. We need Delaware to pass the marriage equality bill so when the Defense of Marriage Act falls, whenever that may be, we will have the one thing we need, a legal marriage, to qualify for Federal equal rights and benefits.
At the moment we’re debating whether we’re too old for a puppy. Our run with unequal rights has gone on long enough. Please be on the right side of history, and grant all Delaware citizens marriage equality. And we’ll let you know what we decide about the puppy. Thank you.“
Yes, I got a laugh on the line about the puppy. But it’s all too true and too important to be a laughing matter anymore. Frankly, the idea of equality was so foreign to us in the 1970s and 80s as we marched for visibility and protection from discrimination, we had a hell of a lot of laughs at those grand events. “’We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it” we chanted. We had our dykes on bikes, our brave drag queens, our military heroes coming out.
So too, was it exuberant, joyous and important to march in 1990’s Pride parades and fight for the right of gay people to serve in the military. Skirmishing for small victories and safe communities was always fun because we came together as a fun-loving, determined community working to build a bridge to the majority; to create a more positive Rehoboth and a more positive world.
But I woke up today, Letters deadline looming and realized that for all the marching, advocacy, fund-raising, letter writing, speech-giving and emotional investment, to lots of Delawareans we are still THEM.
The vote for full marriage equality in the Delaware House was victorious. Our House of Delegates, led by Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf voted in favor of marriage equality. It was a historic and delicious victory.
But now the vote goes to the Senate, which is not a sure thing. We need 11 YES votes in the Senate. And the difference between full marriage equality and the painful continuation of unequal status for those they call THEM could rest on the senator from our own Sussex County district. This senator has the privilege of representing LGBT constituents in literally hundreds of same-sex households. Will he vote for our equality or to keep us as second class citizens? Will we stay in the THEM column? It may just be up to our own state senator.
Call and write THIS MINUTE to your state senator; call and write your representatives and thank or scold them. Take action now. It’s coming down really, really soon. Maybe next week. You ARE sick of being THEM, aren’t you? Help fix it.
Besides, these THEM are sick of living in sin. We want to be declared legally wed in Delaware. That’s a much better environment in which to raise a puppy.
Fay Jacobs is the author of As I Lay Frying—a Rehoboth Beach Memoir; Fried & True—Tales from Rehoboth Beach; and For Frying Out Loud—Rehoboth Beach Diaries. Contact Fay Jacobs