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May 3, 2022

A Right Stripped from one is a Right Stripped from All.

Photo by Prince Photos on Pexels.

I’m in mourning.

Mourning for women who now are looking at having fewer rights. Mourning for victims who will have cruel and unusual punishment forced on them. Mourning for what’s next.

Oppressors are never satisfied. They eat away at hearts, mindlessly devouring the vulnerable, until only what they consider pure is left on the plate. I am unpure. I am not alone.

In 2009, I entered into a domestic partnership with my then boyfriend. Having started a new job, not many people knew me, but I received congratulations, nonetheless. “Thank you,” I’d reply enthusiastically. “I really needed dental insurance.”

That was my joke—it wasn’t for love but a need to get some teeth fixed. I told it to downplay the significance. Truth was, I loved my giant man, and even if it wasn’t marriage, it was something. But also, I really needed dental.

At that point the discussion of same-sex marriage was heating up, and time and time again I’d hear it being framed as “special rights” and “just call it something other than marriage.” Or worse, “they have domestic partnerships, isn’t that enough?”

I like to think these people discussed the sanctity of marriage with their mistresses or fifth spouse.

The constant idea of “didn’t they have enough” was seeping out. It’s never special rights, but “how dare they think they can have the same rights?” It must be so difficult when a seat at the table has always been there, and then to be told to slide over.

It has hurt them so much that in Tennessee they are trying to create—and the irony of this is not lost on me—a special class of marriage that exists between one man and one woman. “Special rights” indeed.

The real difference between partnership and marriage comes from the reason I got it in the first place. Insurance. See, I was on my partner’s plan and paid into it, but when tax time came, we discovered something…let’s say, unequal with the married folk.

The value of my insurance was added to his earned income, then that needed to be additionally taxed. I paid so many times and ways for my teeth, but that one took me by surprise. I didn’t want special treatment. I wanted the same that was automatically afforded to my straight friends and family.

Now we lived in New York City, where gay marriage was legalized in 2011 but was not recognized on federal income taxes. Again, not equal.

In 2015, it became law across the land—supposedly. We traded in the domestic partnership for a marriage certificate. In a small courthouse ceremony, with two friends in attendance, we were wed.

Not in a church. Not before anyone’s god. But before a state official. We entered into a legally binding contract with each other and a “secular” government. And once again congratulations rolled in.

“Thank you,” I’d reply enthusiastically. “I really needed to stop paying extra for dental insurance.”

Each year we have to resubmit that certificate to the insurance company to prove we are still married. But not a day has gone by that I haven’t worried that piece of paper was in jeopardy. I find it hard to hold onto joy that is tenuous.

“Live in the moment.”

“Be happy for what you have.”

That’s not so easy when a court built of nine people who don’t know me or my husband can drag us back years. Especially when one of them hasn’t even been a judge as long as we’ve been together but has a lifetime appointment.

This October will be 15 years together. Years of ups and downs. Of chill nights and health frights. Of rescued cats and silly spats. How is that so irrelevant or misunderstood by some? How is that so different from heterosexual relationships? We still argue about the toilet seat being left up!

Roe is on the chopping block for the heinous crime of allowing women bodily autonomy. What’s next? Obergefell? Lawrence? Love? Because I know there are more in line and the axman has a sharp blade.

Each landmark case is protecting the privacy and sanctity of minorities. The language in that leaked draft is aimed at removing more than just one right.

It’s so easy—as a man—to see what is happening and disconnect. On a sea of troubles, Roe is sinking far away. But the raft I’m on is rocking too. Below the surface all the slimy tendrils are connected and attacking with the hope that we’ll let each go down one at a time.

We’ve been loud. We can be louder. Do not let those who are content to strip our freedoms have a restful night’s sleep. Scream until we are hoarse, pop a lozenge, and keep going.

It will be exhausting. It will be exhilarating.

Remember that seat at the table they don’t want to slide over. Women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, all of us together, don’t need them to make room. We can create our own. But we have to stand together. One group’s issue is all of our issues. One group’s loss is all of our loss. And we are seeing loss right now.

Don’t give up. Find community and allies. Trust me, the oppressors already have their ducks in a row and are ready to keep going. We do not have time for selfish infighting and for trying to focus only on our individual rights. A right stripped from one is a right stripped from all.

Anyone unsure of what to do, reach out to the fighters and ask them: “what’s next?”

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Matthew Randle  |  Contribution: 840

author: Matthew Randle

Image: Prince Photos/Pexels

Editor: Catherine Monkman