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).

Further bet hedging: Designated Beneficiary Agreement executed

Last year on July 1st the Colorado Designated Beneficiaries Law went into effect. This law enables any two legal adults to enter into a Designated Beneficiary Agreement (herein referred to as a DBA). The agreement consists of 16 separate rights which can be granted individually between the two people. These rights include things like hospital visitation, transfer of property upon death, ability to sue for wrongful death, etc – many of the things that a Will and/or Power of Attorney would cover. The law specifically indicates that other legal documents, such as Wills and Power of Attorneys, supersede the DBA.

Today Benjamin and I filled out the two page agreement that had been sitting in our kitchen To Do pile for literally 7 months, took it by UMB bank to be notarized, and then drove it down to the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s office to have it recorded. Total due: $15.50 for the recording that included 3 certified copies — UMB notarized it for free.

The Reason
I’m sure you’re asking why, if we already have Wills and Durable & Medical Power of Attorneys that supercede large parts of the DBA, did we bother with it at all. The answer is simple: we’re just further hedging our bets should something go wrong. The DBA is one more layer to validate what our wishes are if the Will goes into probate or if one of us is having challenges accessing the other person in a medical situation. $15.50 + $4 parking and an hour of our time was a small price to pay for further peace of mind.

The Experience
The entire experience was oddly easy and yet slightly insulting. The Denver Clerk and Recorder’s office is in the beautiful Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building in downtown. After an early lunch Benjamin and I drove downtown, parked two blocks away, and walked to the Webb building. We conveniently walked into the entrance that was immediately adjacent to the Clerk and Recorder’s office. That was the easy part.

The Recorder’s office was empty — we were two of only a handful of people in the office. It was also pleasantly well labeled as the row of clerks closest to the door had a sign above them labeled “Marriage Licenses” or something very similar. Instinctively I knew that while were in the right office, the women behind the desk were not going to be able to help me with my DBA. Despite that I walked up to an available clerk and inquired as to where I should go to have my DBA recorded. She cheerfully instructed me to go down the hall to the second desk on the right where they could help me. What was the sign above the clerk who was able to assist with my DBA? “Real Estate Records”. That was rather insulting: in order to get almost-domestic-partner-level rights in Colorado I had to walk past the Marriage Licenses desk in the front of the Recorder’s office, down a hallway to a woman behind a Real Estate Records desk.

The woman who helped us was, while not rude, not overly friendly although she did faithfully record our document and kept a kind demeanor despite her office equipment not cooperating.

As we walked out of the Webb building I commented to Benjamin that the DBA is the closest thing to Marriage that we currently have and are able to obtain within Colorado. I’m grateful that we have the option of a DBA in Colorado but the experience reinforces my feeling of a second-class citizen.

Why I want to get legally married – part 1

There’s a very logical reason why I want to get legally married to my husband: I want to protect my family. Those of you not familiar with the legal rights granted by that $50 marriage certificate might be thinking I’m being dramatic — but I’m not.

Despite Benjamin and I having Wills, there’s absolutely nothing to prevent one of our families from contesting them should one of us die. Given the behavior of my family over the last year this is not a passive concern. In a worst-case scenario I die and our joint assets are frozen during probate and Benjamin is kicked out of our home if my family “wins”. We’ve taken as many steps as possible to prevent that including the aforementioned Wills and life insurance policies with Benjamin as the primary beneficiary (life insurance policies are contractual documents that bypass Wills unless the insurance beneficiary falls through to the estate). If a spouse of a legally married couple dies the person’s assets transfer seamlessly to the surviving spouse.

Enough about death, lets talk about life. It’s a good thing I like wading through the tax morass ’cause as a non-legally married couple it is an amazingly hard slog. Lets say I want to further hedge my bets against a worst-case “Casey dies” scenario by transferring some of my assets over to Benjamin while I’m alive. Because he and I aren’t legally married I can only transfer ~$13k/year to him tax-free — anything over that amount he would need to pay a gift tax. Married couples can throw however much money they want at each other and not suffer the tax hit.

Lets talk about retirement. When Benjamin was working at the bank, prior to becoming a full-time student, we were actively contributing to his Roth IRA. When he became a full-time student he wasn’t eligible to contribute to his IRA because he wasn’t earning any income. If we were legally married I could have contributed to his IRA (via the “spousal IRA“) for the past three years. This is unfortunate as we missed some pretty good growth opportunities due to how low the market was during that time. A friend had mentioned that I could have hired him for some position and paid him enough money to max out his yearly IRA contributions. The two downsides to that are 1) he would have had to pay taxes on the amount and 2) it could have decreased or removed his ability to obtain grants, scholarships, and/or loans.

Those are the three big financial reasons that jumped immediately to mind this morning – I’m sure there are other financial reasons that I’m not thinking of at the moment.

Evidence Christians used lies during Prop 8

Today finished out the testimony phase of “Perry v. Schwarzenegger”, also known as the Prop 8 Trial. I’ve been following the trial via live-blogging site prop8trialtracker.com courtesy of the Courage Campaign Institute. The testimony has been very revealing — particularly the part where the Proposition 8 proponents blatently lied to the public during the campaign about what gay marriage would mean (see Liveblogging Day 10 Daily Summary near 9:42):

“Polygamists are waiting in the wings! If we have same sex marriage, we’ll have polygamy next.”

Despite no one anywhere advocating anything about polygamy. And:

“Let’s just say that sexual attraction is definition. Pedophiles would have to be allowed to marry. Mothers and sons. Man who wanted to marry horse. Any combination would have to be allowed.”

Aside: I certainly don’t condone pedophilia but it’s pretty obvious that pedophiles are already allowed to marry another adult of the opposite sex.

Those are just two small examples – there are many more in other parts of the testimony. It was obvious at the time, and even moreso now, that the entire campaign was run on lies and fear. It’s clear throughout the testimony presented by expert witness on both sides that there is no “better for society” reason, no “children will be better off” reason, no “it’ll destroy traditional marriage” reason to prevent gays and lesbians from getting married. What’s the real reason our right to marry was taken away in CA? Because it goes against some people’s religious views. Last time I checked it was the power of the state government, not any church, that allowed couples to marry.

And just who were these “Prop 8 proponents” casting out these lies? The quotes above were from a video that ProtectMarriage.com, the defendants, financed during the campaign. And who financed ProtectMarriage.com? Also from a video that ProtectMarriage.com created (see Liveblogging Day 10 Daily Summary near 10:06):

“We know that today we must win. That’s why we are so grateful that 2,500 pastors have come out on consistent basis every month. If someone is going to vote no, we flip them to show that kids will be taught this in schools. We have spent thousands of dollars on polling. Continue to do so. In 1999, LDS got involved in Hawaii. With capital S, they were significantly involved. No different this time. Campaign will cost minimum of $25 million and LDS across this state deeply involved. Catholic Bishop in SD, three evangelical ministers from SD all got involved. Asked Focus on the Family for money. They sent us $50,000 that allowed us to get petitions printed. Thanks to you, we are here, we will win.” (emphasis mine).

And just in case you thought “three evangelical ministers isn’t so bad – must be a Mormon and Catholic thing”, here’s an email admitted into evidence that was sent to ProtectMarriage.com listing who was involved (see Liveblogging Day 10 Daily Summary near 10:23):

Evangelicals—400,000 signatures; 3,00 pastors
Orthodox Jews
(emphasis mine)

Maybe God and I will work out our conflicts, but Christianity can go screw itself. Take your “hate the sin love the sinner” and “think of the children” mantras and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. Using John’s logical conclusion to a metaphor in a related blog entry: forget the bathwater, the baby’s dead – throw it out.