By Natalie Merante | email@example.com
I walked through the doors of Tampa General Hospital, and began looking for my dad. I ran through halls, misread signs and bumped into about 15 people in my rushed effort to get to the third floor cardiac unit. As I found the waiting room, my eyes immediately fell upon the man in the back, as big as the Hulk and worried sick; my father was terrified for his husband’s life.
Same sex marriage is legal in 17 states. That’s it, just 17. It sounds like a large number, but it isn’t really if you consider that there’s 50 of them. Currently, same sex couples who are married have the same rights as heterosexual couples, but it wasn’t always that way. Not too long ago, same sex couples had less rights than a straight couple. Not too long ago, my dad wouldn’t have been able to see his partner in the hospital, even though he was Tom’s closest living “family” member.
Hospital visitation rights don’t seem like they’re a big deal, but just imagine it — you’re sitting in a hospital bed, waiting for your life partner to show up (they’re there but you have no way of knowing), and you get whisked away, without any sign of your loved one. On the other side of the double doors, your loved one sits, worried and terrified, and has no idea what’s happening to you in there. For same sex couples, this was the reality before 2011. The ability to visit their life partner was among one of the many rights that same sex couples lost for being in love with someone of the same gender.
Growing up with gay parents, you could say that same sex marriage was always an issue that was close to my heart. I’ve watched the world treat my parents’ love as an imaginary illness. I watched my dads shy away from one another in public. I heard them speak differently in public than they did at home. I watched them hide their sexuality from the disapproving world they lived in.
While sitting in that waiting room on that chilly October day, a nurse came in to give an update to Mr. Cruickshank’s family. All of the nuclear families stared up at us as a grown man was told that his husband’s surgery was taking longer than it was supposed to.
I used to live with someone who genuinely believed that America wasn’t ready for gay marriage. This disgusted me to hear, but I had to accept that people have differing opinions than I do, in fact, 33 states have differing opinions than I do, but change is on the horizon for same sex couples.
Although government officials seemed to move at a glacial pace (at least in the eyes of someone who’s heart is in this issue), change is finally coming for same sex couples. No longer does my dad have to beg and grovel at the feet of various nurses and surgical assistants to see his partner or even just to find out if he’s going to be alright. This change is recent though, and has taken all too long to come to people who deserve nothing less than anybody else.
Freedomtomarry.org lists 15 protections denied to same sex couples, if they are unmarried. Here’s the tricky part that apparently isn’t so obvious to many people. If you live in one of those 33 states, then you can’t get married, and you receive none of those protections. These include hospital visitation and emergency medical decisions. We live in a country that prides itself on accepting everyone, yet denies anybody who’s different. The basic right to marry who you love is not an uncommon theme here. It’s the same thing that the Supreme Court decided was Constitutional when Richard Loving and Mildred Loving married each other interracially in 1964.
Basic unalienable civil rights are something that belongs to anybody and everybody who lives in this country, yet somehow, fear of the unfamiliar has worked to deprive people of some of those rights. Fear of the unfamiliar led to strange glances from all the doctors and nurses at the hospital when “your husband and daughters are here to see you,” was said to a man.
As I walked out of the hospital that day thankful for my stepfather’s life. I couldn’t help but think about the way people treated my fathers. Of course they were polite, but some seemed so put off by a same sex couple. That is what is wrong with this country. People are so stuck in a belief, in a pattern, in terror of seeing something so “different.” At this point, I’m not sure that the unfamiliar was two men together or the love that shone off of the two of them. My dad’s marriage is easily one of the happiest unions that I have ever seen. I think that’s the beauty in same sex couples. The fact that their relationships are criticized globally makes them play for keeps. In the end, the only issue here is love. Is it really that difficult for the world to simply let people love one another?