MTV Street Team '08: Marriage Equality For All?

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This post was originally written for MTV's Choose Or Lose Street Team '08.

Picture: Gov. Deval Patrick celebrates the defeat of the proposal to ban marriage equality in Massachusetts (14 June 2007)

Katherine Patrick, the daughter of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, is a courageous youth.  In the last year she has come out as a lesbian to her friends and family, and last week she came out to the whole world.  18-year-old Katherine Patrick did a sit down interview with Bay Windows, "New England's largest GLBT newspaper", to make the announcement, and the news has since been written about by the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe, the Associated Press, and countless other news outlets that reach across the globe.
As a straight white male, I will always acknowledge that the privileged lens through which I view the world does not make me the best person to speak on issues like this, but I'm going to try, and people are free to weigh in through comments. 

Despite the seeming ease and comfort with which Katherine Patrick has come out, for many, it's not easy to come out in a heteronormative world.  According to Mass Equality:

Coming out can be an incredibly difficult and stressful event in a young person's life. It can be a scary, confusing and isolating time, even for those who have a supportive family -- and many LGBT youth do not. Studies show that LGBT youth are at increased risk for suicide, homelessness, substance abuse and other risk behaviors.
According to Mass Equality director, Marc Solomon, not only is the LGBT youth rate of suicide attempts higher than straight youth, but HIV rates among LGBT youth are also on the rise.  While there is no evidence that Katherine Patrick has had to deal with issues like this, there is still the added effect of being forced into the public limelight.

Taken within this context, Katherine Patrick's seemingly breezy sit-down interview with Bay Windows is courageous, and she'll probably serve as an inspiration not only to other LGBT youth out there, afraid to come out, but even straight youth like myself.  One of the most touching parts of the Bay Windows interview describes, Katherine Patrick's feelings as she watched her father fight for marriage equality in Massachusetts:

On June 14, 2007, the day that lawmakers finally voted down an anti-gay marriage amendment to the state constitution, Katherine Patrick stood outside the State House and looked up at her father. Gov. Deval Patrick was standing on the front steps, surrounded by a jubilant crowd of hundreds that mobbed the brick sidewalk and spilled halfway across Beacon Street. As they cheered the defeat of the amendment - an effort led by the governor, Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Sal DiMasi - Katherine had never before felt more proud of her father.

"Because, of course, he didn’t know that I was gay then," the 18-year-old recalls. "So, for someone so publicly to fight for something that doesn’t even affect him was just like, ’That’s my dad,’ you know?" she says with a laugh. "That’s all I could think. I was very, very proud to be part of this family, and this state in general."

"It was great. I’m very glad," she adds, looking at her father. "Don’t cry, Dad." Patrick’s eyes are brimming with tears, prompting some good-natured teasing from his daughter. "He’s done some good things," she says with a laugh, patting his arm. "I appreciate it. Want a tissue? Oh, God. He’s a crier."
Laura Kiritsy - Bay Windows (12 June 2008)

I especially liked how Gov. Deval Patrick handled the whole situation.  It certainly makes me proud to live in a tolerant state where the Governor thinks it's no big deal that his daughter is a lesbian, even going so far as to say:

You know, it’s interesting even just thinking about having this interview. Katherine and Diane and I and her aunt and Sarah were all talking about, you know, would we give an interview to announce one of our kids was straight? It’s just not about the public ... it’s just about making sure that they had the fullness of their personality and their humanity.
Deval Patrick - Bay Windows (12 June 2008)

This comes at a time when Gov. Patrick has put marriage equality at number two on his top 20 list of accomplishments since he's been in office, right below clean energy:

  1. Making Massachusetts a national leader on clean energy
    • Joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
    • Worked with Legislature to develop comprehensive energy and advanced biofuels legislation to help consumers deal with the rising cost of fossil fuels.
    • Passed a first-in-the-nation comprehensive oceans bill for our state waters.
    • Approved the final state environmental review for Cape Wind.
    • Launched Commonwealth Solar rebate program to spur installation of solar electric power.
  2. Marriage equality for all Massachusetts residents
I can't express enough how ecstatic I am for all of the above.  Gov. Deval Patrick has been stellar at defending marriage equality in the Commonwealth, and Katherine Patrick's very public coming out was handled in the best possible way, for an administration that has had its media mishaps.  With the Boston Pride gay pride parade over the weekend I would go so far as to call it a communications masterpiece.

That being said, you didn't think I was going to let the Governor off that easy, did you?  If I did, I wouldn't be doing my job.  I have one small bone to pick with the second accomplishment on the Governor's top 20 list: "marriage equality for all Massachusetts residents".  There is one subset of Massachusetts residents that still do not have marriage equality.  The above statement is false.

Most same-sex couples residing in Massachusetts can now get married, but there is still one subset of same-sex couples that are left out in the cold.  Bi-national same-sex couples still do not have the same rights as heterosexual couples.  That is to say, if a U.S. citizen woman were to want to marry a man who is not a citizen of the United States, there are visas and channels to do that.  But if a U.S. citizen woman wants to marry another woman that is not from the United States, tough luck, there is nothing she can do.  A recent video from Current expresses this hardship better than I ever could:

It's just another way that migrants are discriminated against in the U.S. and no one is talking about it.  The only way to end this hardship is through the Uniting American Families Act.  I really am happy for Gov. Deval Patrick and his family.  It made me smile to read about him imagining his daughter's marriage:

[Gov. Patrick says,] "you know, I can still - because we live in Massachusetts - I can still imagine what Katherine’s wedding is going to be like." Lowering his voice, he adds, "How much it’s gonna cost."

"Yup," laughs his daughter - who is single for now - indicating that she’s dreaming of a big, fat, gay wedding. "It’s okay, Dad."
Laura Kiritsy - Bay Windows (12 June 2008)

I just think it's important to remember that there are still people forced to be separate from their significant others just because they were born on separate pieces of Earth.

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yave begnet said:

Great post, kyle. We're getting there, step by step. It's a very hopeful time right now ... but still so much work to be done.

Many Americans have probably never even considered the existence of same-sex binational couples, much less realized the terrible choices they are forced to make. As always, Immigration Equality is leading the way on this issue.

kyledeb Author Profile Page said:

Thank goodness for Immigration Equality, here. I just wish we could get them more help.

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