Monday, February 10, 2014

Same-sex Marriage Partner's Rights Protected Federally by Eric Holder and Obama Administration

Eric Holder; public domain

On Monday 82nd US Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration made American history. Speaking at the Greater New York Gala of the Human Rights Campaign on the previous Saturday, Holder said he would sign a new policy memo on Monday stating that under federal law every partner in a same - sex marriage will receive the same priveleges, protections and rights as opposite-sex marriage partners in court proceedings where the Department of Justice stands on behalf of the United States. Mostly importantly, these rights will apply even to couples living in states which don’t recognize same-sex marriages. 

That memo has been signed. Included is be the right to refuse to give incriminating testimony against a spouse and the right for same-sex marriage partners to file jointly for bankruptcy. 

Federal inmates who are same-sex marriage partners now have the same priveleges as opposite-sex marriage partners regarding visitation, correspondence with their spouse, reduction in sentence or compassionate release if their spouse is ill, permission to be with their spouse in a crisis and to attend their spouse’s funeral (under escort).

It’s been a long time coming in a country that prides itself on its greatness and it’s a move in the direction towards making that greatness a reality. It’s also one way the Obama administration can side-step the conservative bias in America. The President has repeatedly said, in response to criticisms about why he doesn’t do more, that he doesn’t have the power to over-ride the individual states’ laws on same-sex marriage. The responsibility lies with the voters, to vote for different Representatives. 

But the Department of Justice can control what it does. It’s always a cause for celebration when prejudices deeply entrenched in society are eroded, in no matter how small a way. Conservative Christians are outraged. One of their biggest arguments against same-sex marriage has always been that if you change the definition of marriage you harm society irrevocably.

But the definition of marriage was really about keeping the pretence of the white picket fence relationship alive when the reality was couples tearing each other apart at every opportunity, or never speaking to each other, or living with terrible, unspoken tension. In my whole childhood I never saw one happy marriage. So that definition isn’t particularly valuable to society. 

Whether homophobics like it or not, they’ve never had any intrinsic rights that gays and lesbians don’t have and they sure don’t have them now. Trotting out selective phrases from the Old Testament proves nothing until it can be shown that those words weren’t written by homophobics. Which is an oxymoron if ever there was one. That this aspect of the Old Testament has carried so much weight for so long doesn’t prove that it’s the word of God, it proves that prejudice against gays and lesbians has been very deeply entrenched in the human race for an awful long time. I believe that mean-spirited humans are fear-driven so they resist change. People have the right to their own beliefs and fears. But when those beliefs and fears drive them to try and destroy the rights of others I believe they are the ones harming society.

Changes in society and in the definition of marriage are really governed by the changes that happen in people as we evolve emotionally and intellectually and as repressed people gain courage to fight for their rights. To my way of thinking it’s a good thing, it’s something to celebrate. It’s taken 82 US Attorney Generals and 44 presidents to get here. 

So, congratulations to Eric Holder and the Obama administration for setting an example and the making the world just a bit fairer than it ever was before.