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a health care post (and it’s not about SiCKO)

July 10, 2007

But it is about gay marriage.

Thank goodness for the good gay marriage fight, without which we would not have states suddenly denying domestic partner benefits because they violate constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. Step back for a second. For some refreshing commentary (not to mention great historical context, if you read the full text), let us consult John D’Emilio:

Please, can we speak the truth? The campaign for same-sex marriage has been an unmitigated disaster. Never in the history of organized queerdom have we seen defeats of this magnitude. The battle to win marriage equality through the courts has done something that no other campaign or issue in our movement has done: it has created a vast body of new antigay law. Alas for us, as the anthropologist Gayle Rubin has so cogently observed, “sex laws are notoriously easy to pass. … Once they are on the books, they are extremely difficult to dislodge.” (“The Marriage Fight is Setting us Back,” from the November/December 2006 issue of the Gay and Lesbian Review:)

Case in point today: Kalamazoo, Michigan. Domestic partners of city employees used to have the option of accessing their partners’ health care. No longer, since legislators recently realized that they could use a 2004 constitutional ban on gay marriage to deem the practice illegal. The answer to this problem is NOT “find a way to guarantee that all couples can access each other’s health insurance.” The answer is not to tell the millions of Americans without health insurance to get married to someone whose employer provides insurance.

I haven’t seen Sicko yet, though I hope to soon. From what I’ve read, the documentary provides ample evidence that our country’s system of spending the most in the world on health insurance and having the highest number of uninsured citizens (not to speak of uninsured undocumented immigrants) is beyond absurd. What is also absurd is that so many gay people will rally around gay marriage as some piece of the solution to “our” (as in the gay community’s) health insurance problems, among other issues, when the reality is that a) many states, cities, and private employers recognize domestic partnerships as they do straight marriages when it comes to benefits and b) many, if not most, gay people would STILL be uninsured if gay marriage was legalized in the federal courts tomorrow.

But I digress. What did Kalamazoo do in response to this conundrum? Something really interesting, actually. They took the same language of the previous law allowing partners of city employees to access their partners’ health insurance and changed the wording from “domestic partner” to “Other Qualified Adult.” It’s kind of brilliant, actually, and it reminds me, if only nominally, of the Beyond Same-Sex Marriage statement, which dares to ask for recognition for all kinds of family structures. The language needed to be ambiguous regarding the relationship between the two people in order to pass – it makes no requirement that the two people be romantically involved. It’s kind of cool, actually. Coolest part? It passed. Interesting.

I’ve said it before and I will likely say it again because if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know this issue drives me nuts. Gay marriage is not the answer to all your gay problems. Seriously. It’s doing us more harm than good (it’s also going against history: thank you John D’Emilio). And it’s taking energy away from other worthy fights.

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