Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hey, Barry. I'll believe you when I can get a divorce.

So President Obama finally said he personally supports marriage equality. How progressive of him in an election year where power gay donors have already said they'll no longer support him because of his hesitation about whether or not queers are citizens/humans.

But, Merideth! Why aren't you peeing yourself with excitement about Obama supporting teh gaymarriage? Well, Internet, let me tell you. It's time to get real.

I have been in a civil union since 2006. My partner and I are no longer together. I can't get a divorce because most states don't have marriage equality, and even the places with marriage equality don't usually recognize civil unions. Keeping DOMA around keeps me married - well, almost married, because a civil union isn't really quite the same thing as a marriage.

I have already written more than one draft post about this issue. I never got around to posting them because each time I'd start it was too discouraging to finish. The BBC did a pretty good news/video story about couples who can't get divorced that I think does justice to the way I feel about it. Hint: Having a legally binding relationship that you don't want and that you can't end really sucks. It's just miserable, and it has real potential for consequence. It's also a constant reminder that you are not an equal citizen under the law.

Last October I moved to New Hampshire. I moved here for reasons unrelated to my union, but by a stroke of luck this state is one of the only places in the world where I might be able to dissolve my civil union. Unfortunately I'd have to have some sort of pro-bono miracle to pursue a divorce (or whatever you call it for our separate-and-not-equal almostmarriage).

President Obama supported marriage equality before he ran for president. He backpedaled on the issue around the time he decided to run. Then, at the LOGO channel debates in 2007, Obama told the moderator Melissa Etheridge that wanting to call our unions "marriage" is "an issue of semantics." He said he wanted to give us all the same federal rights, just not with the same word. He never delivered on that federal promise. Now he's essentially taken a "states' rights" view on the issue.

States' rights is what has kept me stuck in my civil union. From before our union to well after our split, my partner and I both lived in Ohio, which has a constitutional amendment to keep queers like us from having all the rights Ohioans are supposed to get. Our marriage civil union certificate was basically invalid the moment we took it beyond Vermont borders anyway. But Vermont now has full marriage equality. If it hadn't been for the Ohio amendment, we might have contemplated going back to VT and upgrading our civil union to a real marriage so then maybe we could get a divorce at home. Yeah, that's right, they didn't automatically upgrade all the civil unions to marriages. You have to go file for it. You also can't dissolve any Vermont union in Vermont unless you have been a resident there for a year.

If all this weaving in and out of legality across borders and within them sounds like a convoluted, confusing and annoying process to you, imagine having it be your actual life.

Some say Obama's record on LGBTQIA rights, like the rest of everything else he has ever done, is "tantalizingly close to being terrific." It never has gone far enough. Open LGB service in the armed forces is not enough! There is so much injustice based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression that his administration won't touch. In addition to neglect of action there are homophobic, biphobic and transphobic policies the Obama administration actively continues to enforce. But, you know, personal support of marriage equality.

Barack Obama does not deserve a parade of praise for being unable to remain a coward on a single issue. Ronald Reagan wasn't a great guy just because he finally said the word "AIDS." It's important and historic that a president said out loud he supports marriage equality. But that's it. Obama supports marriage equality because support is now the least-risk position. A majority of Americans are already on our side.

President Obama is not the leader who has brought LGBTQIA equality to this point. The leader who did that is us. I hope that in the months to come when we consider our demands and what we are trying to achieve and what is holding us back we will remember all these facts.

I would love more than anything to be proven wrong about what I'm about to say, but I doubt much else is going to happen on LGBTQIA rights before the election. That's why I say I'll believe Barack Obama really supports marriage equality when I can get a divorce. We'll see if Obama's statement has any effect on things like his administration's rampant deportation of foreign people from binational LGBQ couples. Which one satisfies you more: ABC channel interviews, or executive orders...?