Thursday, November 12, 2009

Callous? Stupid? You decide.

A couple of days ago a bill landed on the desk of Rhode Island governor Don Carcieri which would add "domestic partners" to the list of people who are allowed to make funeral arrangements for a person. Carcieri vetoed the bill. His reason? According to CBS News it was that the legislation represents a "disturbing trend" of the incremental erosion of heterosexual marriage.

If you've read any accounts or heard stories of gay partners in long-term relationships being denied the right to even attend their partner's funeral, let alone make the arrangements for the service, you know how painful and humiliating it can be. You can read a few in the comments section on the post regarding this story at Joe Jervis's blog. Here is just one: "Shortly after my partner was killed in a traffic accident, his mother had his remains moved to another location and refused to tell me where they took him. They actually dug him up and when I went to the cemetery, I found an empty grave. She said that she didn't want me "desecrating" his grave by putting flowers on it. Earlier, I was allowed to attend the funeral, but was told that the burial was for "family only." We had lived together for six years."

There are many stories like this. And it seems callous of Carcieri to deny committed couples the right to make funeral arrangements for each other. Given that the bill was passed out of the legislature with a veto proof 64-1 margin, it also seems sort of politically brain-dead.

However, Carcieri did make one point that I sort of agree with. The bill established criteria for what constitutes a "domestic partnership" and Carcieri believes those criteria are sort of vague. They include living together at least a year and being "financially interdependent," such as owning a home together or sharing a credit card. Carcieri believes a "one year time period is not a sufficient duration to establish a serious bond between two individuals...[relative to] sensitive personal traditions and issues regarding funeral arrangements."

Here's where I agree (and where this starts to sound like "The View"). Say your daughter has shacked up with a guy and he talked her into adding his name to her credit card. If your daughter died and the live-in BF wanted to have her body cremated in defiance of your wishes and religious tradition, I have a hard time seeing why his wishes should take precedence over those of her family.

Clearly it's not that I don't want people in committed relationships to be able to make funeral arrangements for each other (or inherit without taxation, visit each other in the hospital, etc.), it's just that when it comes to important issues such as these, that's what marriage is for. If you want those rights, you need to take on the responsibilities, as well. It's just another reason why we need marriage equality.

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