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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Eagle

Marriage is a right for all couples

In 1983, Sharon Kowalski was hit by a drunk driver. Karen Thompson, her partner of four years, rushed to the hospital, only to find that medical personnel would not let her see Kowalski or even share information about her partner's condition. Thompson sat in the waiting room, living out many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people's worst fears. Her nightmare was just beginning.

The accident left Kowalski partially paralyzed and in need of long-term care. She also suffered permanent brain damage, which impaired her short-term memory and ability to speak. Thompson hoped to get guardianship of her partner; the women owned a house together and named each other beneficiaries of their life insurance policies. Instead, the Minnesota court gave Kowalski's father control of her long-term care.

When Donald Kowalski discovered that his daughter was a lesbian living in a partnership with a woman, he put her in a treatment facility with explicit instructions that Thompson not be allowed to visit. The nursing home offered no rehabilitation programs, though eventually Kowalski was able to communicate with a typewriter. Thompson remained separated from her partner as she began the long legal battle to reestablish their partnership.

Six years later, Thompson won the right to move Kowalski to a rehabilitation facility and visit her for the first time since the accident. After many years of separation, Thompson instantly recognized the woman who had fought so long and hard to see her again, and typed one simple message: "I love you."

In 1993, ten years after Kowalski's accident, another lesbian faced another heart-rending battle. Sharon Bottoms lost custody of her two-year-old son to her mother, who did not approve of Bottoms' same-sex relationship with April Wade. The judge decided the case based on the fact that Bottoms' identity as a lesbian inherently made her unfit to parent. The decision tore the family apart, and it would take many years of legal battles for Bottoms to overcome some of the restrictions placed on visits with her son.

Kowalski and Bottoms are just two examples, but the families threatened by unfair legislation and legal decisions are numerous. From the gay man in Hawaii, who did not find out his partner of 20 years had died until he received a call from the morgue, asking him to pick up the body, to the Florida transman who was denied custody of his children, the need for a better legal structure is obvious. GLBT families, just like every other family, deserve equal protection under the law, especially when denial of these basic human rights has torn so many families apart. The simplest way to correct this grave injustice is simple: the U.S. should finally recognize that gay civil marriage is a family value. And it's not just a value. It's a right.

This week, 20 years after the Kowalski case and 10 years after Bottoms v. Bottoms, organizations like the Family Research Council, Concerned Women for America and the Christian Coalition have sponsored Marriage Protection Week, carefully timed with National Coming Out Week. Marriage Protection Week makes a mockery of thousands of Americans living in loving, committed relationships, who often face enormous challenges to keep their families intact. President Bush even endorsed its goals, and has suggested that he will support a proposed Constitutional amendment defining marriage strictly as a union between a man and a woman. This strikes at the heart of a document that, though far from perfect, has been slowly evolving to better guarantee the rights and freedoms of every American, and would instead enshrine discrimination and bigotry permanently.

I have no plans to get married any time soon. I'm young, I'm career-oriented, and I want to avoid child-rearing responsibilities a bit longer. But one day, maybe in eight years, maybe in 10, that will change. And I hope my country will respect my marriage the way it respects those of my sisters.

Section 202 host Gabrielle and friends go over some sports that aren’t in the sports media spotlight often, and review some sports based on their difficulty to play. 

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