WHY I SUPPORT GAY MARRIAGE
(AN EX-PARAMEDIC'S VIEW)
From 1987 to 1995, during the most devastating years of the AIDS epidemic in the United States, I worked as a paramedic for Saint Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan, serving primarily the neighborhoods of Greenwich Village and Chelsea. During that time I responded to huge numbers of calls involving AIDS patients, many times in apartments where one partner in a gay couple had the disease and the other did not. In those instances, I witnessed firsthand a degree of caring, devotion and LOYALTY, by one human being to another, that could serve as an example to many a heterosexual couple challenged by such things as terminal illness or other major life stressors. If there is one thing that the AIDS epidemic should have taught us, it is that gays are as capable of one-on-one devotion as is anyone else. Unfortunately, gays and straights all too often live in separate "worlds," whereby those living in the one world rarely see or understand the workings of the other. Consequently, straights may be inclined to view gays as promiscuous or otherwise incapable of the kind of bonding and loyalty that ought to accompany a marriage, while gays may dismiss straights as "breeders" whose devotion lasts only long enough to see the youngest kid off to college (following which they are ready for a long-awaited divorce). The truth, of course, is that there are all kinds of people of either sexual preference, and whether someone is gay or straight probably has, of itself, nothing to do with the character attributes that make that person capable of becoming and remaining a loyal and loving partner for life.
Because I was a paramedic in the right place and time, I was privileged to cross over into that other world often enough to see that good marriages, capable of surviving the ultimate test of the slow and painful death of one partner, can and do exist among gays. But wait a minute! These pair bondings between members of the same sex, no matter how permanent, are not "real" marriages, are they? That's still in dispute. They will be real marriages only when and if "the law" gets around to "saying so," but the law will not get around to saying so unless and until our democratically elected representatives pass statutes to confer upon such unions legal recognition carrying with it benefits comparable to those of marriage. (Or, of course, unless and until the courts force such legal recognition down the throats of the People, which is never a very palatable alternative...) OK, then, where do we go from here? Do we hope that We the People, acting through our legislatures, eventually wake up and recognize that denying the opportunity to enjoy the legal benefits of marriage to persons of one sexual preference is unfair? Or do we sit back and let unelected judges step in and run the whole show? Or do we let the pot simmer for another century, much as this nation was forced to do at its Founding regarding the divisive issue of slavery?
Well, just having to ask these questions makes me certain, in spite of (or perhaps because of) all my legal training and education, that the law is a damned poor substitute for such things as loyalty, justice, compassion and tolerance.
©2004 James M. Maloney. All rights reserved.
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