Rainbow allies

Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling was momentous and emotional. But the thing that made me break down in tears today is seeing our allies celebrate with us: there are so many of them!

After the announcement, Facebook made an easy way to create a rainbow overlay of your profile picture. Today you can thumb through your news feed and it’s rainbow picture after rainbow picture. Post after post of excitement over the ruling. And that is powerful. What’s more powerful is seeing how many of them aren’t LGBT, but straight-allies. Some I expected, some I didn’t. Both made me cry.

Yesterday happened for many reasons, but straight allies are the biggest reason we won in the end. They’ve been part of this fight from the beginning, helping change hearts and minds alongside us. For many, their visible support resulted in hard converstaions with friends and family who didn’t get it. And they’ve had those conversations. We didn’t get to over 50% approval rating for gay marriage by ourselves.

To every ally: my most sincere, heart-felt thank you. Thank you for being with us along the way and thank you for joining in the celebration.

Now, please pass the tissues.

EMC Isilon supports marriage equality

Back in mid-August I sent an email to Sujal, the president of EMC Isilon, asking when we were going to join the myriad of other companies that came out in support of marriage equality, aka: WA Referendum 74. At that time, other major area tech employers such as Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, Google, even REI had already issued their support. Shortly after that T-Mobile and Expedia joined too.

Today, EMC Isilon announced their support:

“Our support of the state’s legislation that provides same-sex couples with the right to civil marriage is another example of our commitment to supporting – and delivering – benefits for domestic partners.”

— Sujal Patel, President, EMC/Isilon Storage Division

I’ve never been more proud to work for a company than I am today. This is the first time that EMC has publicly backed marriage equality. They didn’t do it in California during Prop 8, they didn’t do it in Maine, and they didn’t do it in North Carolina — but they did it here in Washington. When a fairly politically reserved large company sees that it’s the right thing to do from a business perspective to support marriage equality it’s obvious the tide is turning.

The arc really is bending toward justice.

Marriage equality come November in WA

For those of you just tuning in, I was married1 to a man for 7.5 years until 1.5 years ago. I don’t regret a single moment but as it currently stands I don’t expect to get married again. Still, I’m a rabid supporter of marriage equality and am betting big on WA Referendum 74 this November.

The Washington legislature voted to allow gay marriage back in February but a referendum was submitted to put it to a public vote. Thus far, every public vote on the topic of marriage equality in any US state has failed. Every one. I don’t think civil rights should be put to a vote — by definition the rights being voted on are for the minority. It’s the job of the courts to ensure the majority aren’t tyrants of the minority. Yet the judicial system doesn’t want to get too far ahead of public opinion.

That in turn beings us full circle to WA Referendum 74. If approved, gays can marry in Washington state. Does that affect me? Not directly, at least not any longer and probably not in the future. But it’s an important step in moving the ball forward2. Another indicator that our generation is more open minded and accepting than that which preceded us. One more way to help obsolete the “It Gets Better” project — because it will already be better.

So my fellow gays, even if you despise the institution of marriage and never intend on getting married yourself, please go vote to approve WA Referendum 74 come November. We owe it to those that come after us, but most importantly we owe it to ourselves.

1 While we considered ourselves married, our relationship was never recognized as such in any of the 3 states we lived in during that time.

2 Yes, I just just used a sports reference.

Microsoft supports gay marriage in WA State; Where’s EMC Isilon?

Yesterday Microsoft publicly declared their backing of the two WA marriage equality bills (SB 6239 and HB 2516). Their reasoning:

As other states recognize marriage equality, Washington’s employers are at a disadvantage if we cannot offer a similar, inclusive environment to our talented employees, our top recruits and their families. Employers in the technology sector face an unprecedented national and global competition for top talent. Despite progress made in recent years with domestic partnership rights, same-sex couples in Washington still hold a different status from their neighbors. Marriage equality in Washington would put employers here on an equal footing with employers in the six other states that already recognize the committed relationships of same-sex couples – Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. This in turn will help us continue to compete for talent.

In short: it’s good business sense.

I was recently asked by my mother if I would ever move back to Texas. The answer was a resounding no. I made a promise to myself years ago that I would never move to a state where I had fewer rights than I did where I was currently located1. Colorado was a step up from Texas. Washington was an even bigger step up from Colorado. Top talent has a choice on who they work for, and what state that is in.

Which makes me say: hey EMC Isilon – where’s your voice? EMC is based in Massachusetts, so you should be well familiar with marriage equality. This is a perfect time for Isilon to get more visibility that we’re a WA company who values our employees and supports equality. Because after all, it just makes good business sense.

1 Texas’ rabid conservativeism being a close second.

Update: It took them 8 months, but they did it!

Everything but marriage

Two weeks ago before Benjamin’s trip to Kingsville for Uncle Sam’s funeral and my trip to Austin to move the family business to a new building, B and I got married. Well, as close as you can get to it in Washington state – which is pretty damn close. In fact, Washington state has Everything But Marriage-level domestic partnerships.

What did our ‘wedding’ entail? Walking a couple of blocks to the nearest Chase (where we bank), getting a piece of paper notarized, and mailing it into the State. When we got back, our certificates (one for each person) and domestic partnership cards (one for each person) were in our mailbox.

While better than what we had in Colorado, and way better than what we had in Texas, it’s still “everything but” marriage. Functionally, until the federal DOMA gets repealed it doesn’t really matter. In the meantime, we’ve got a bit more legal protection than we’ve had before.

Hospital visitation for gays

Mid-February I posted about about my concerns regarding hospital visitation rights for Benjamin and I should something occur. Obama must have read my blog post, because yesterday, only 2 months later, he instructed his health secretary to make it happen. The new rules will only apply to hospitals that participate in Medicare or Medicaid which is most of them according to the NY Times. I suppose any hospital who decides they don’t want to comply can just stop participating in those programs (and good riddance if they close because of it).

My family sincerely thanks you Mr. President.

Why I want to get legally married – part 2

In part 1 I focused on the financials. This time I’ll focus on the medical side of things – specifically hospital visitation.

After getting our Colorado Designated Beneficiary Agreement (DBA) executed two weeks ago I decided it would be a good idea to verify that our Medical Power of Attorney documents included a hospital visitation directive. To my surprise, and panic, they did not. If you’ll recall the DBA allows you to specifically designate the other person with the authority to visit you in the hospital but that document only applies to Colorado. After discovering we did not have any such document for outside Colorado I had them drawn up.

For the uninitiated, most hospital critical care units (ERs, etc) limit visitors to “family members”, with “family” being defined by whomever nurse is the gatekeeper at that particular moment. If you do not meet the arbitrary definition of “family” required by the gatekeeper – you don’t get access. A Hospital Visitation Authorization document is simply a document that codifies your wishes for who should be able to visit you in such a situation.

But lets step back and evaluate the reality of the situation: if you’re needing access to your spouse who is in the ER and unable to voice their desire for your presence, you’re at the mercy of the nurse and their definition of “family”. Waving a legal document in their face might get you past them, but it might not. They could easily just route you to the hospital’s legal department. What would constitute “family” to the average person? Residing at the same address? Maybe – although any two people could be roommates and not be family. My guess is the average person is going to associate two people having the same last name as “family”: either they are married or they are otherwise related.

I think this has implications for any married couple, regardless of their sexual orientation, who do not have the same last name. I’ll point out that not only did our thought exercise not favor access via legal document too highly – reality doesn’t either. It is, however, another tool in the arsenal.

Perhaps it’s time to more seriously revisit making our last names the same (the current winner for that is Parc – no relation to PARC or PARC though).