Let me tell you a little story
There is this guy living in Allentown, his name is Chris, I have known Chris his whole life. Chris works hard; pay’s his taxes, votes, loves his family and has a lot of great friends. Chris was building a life with a great guy named Mike. Mike died suddenly a year ago.
Chris was in bed and he heard a sound and a thud in the bathroom, he rushed in to find Mike on the floor dyeing. Chris called the 911 and as Mike was being taken to the hospital, Chris was put in a police car and taken to the police station so an investigation could take place to ensure there was no foul play. Mike died alone in the hospital his life partner Chris was alone at the police station. An officer came in to the room to tell Chris that Mike had died and that he was cleared so he could go home. I don’t recall now if the police brought him home or if Chris’s parents came to pick him up. Imagine what the neighbors thought when they saw these two men being taken out of the apartment.
Mike was just coming out of the shadows of the closet, despite that fact that he and Chris were building a life together Mike was not quite strong enough or comfortable enough to list Chris as a beneficiary on any of his insurance or retirement paper work and there was no will. The only proof that these two men had a life together was the matching rings they wore.
The county could not release Mike’s body to Chris. The county had to place an article in the newspaper looking for a next of kin and after 72 hours of waiting Chris was given access to Mike’s remains. A next of kin was found; a miserable old woman who Mike had not been in contact with since the mid 90’s, she was Mike’s Aunt. She released Mike’s body to Chris and his family under one condition; she would not be asked to contribute to the cost of the funeral otherwise “The County could dispose of him as they would any pauper”. Chris’s sister dealt with the county on his behalf and said Chris wanted nothing from her he just wanted Mike’s body so he could complete Mike’s wishes.
Mike worked with Chris’s brother and the people at work went into overdrive and took care of all the details for the reception after the memorial service, employees from other locations came to cover the workplace so anyone who wanted to attend the memorial service could. Close to 150 people attended the very casual service. Mike was not very religious but the service was held in the social hall of Chris’s family’s church.
The funeral home understood the situation and really went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the Mike’s urn could be present for the service and they also understood that Chris would have to engage an attorney in order to gain access to Mike’s estate to cover the costs of the funeral and other debts they incurred together.
Under Pennsylvania laws Chris was not entitled to Mike’s estate because there was no will nor was he listed on the beneficiary paperwork. The only person entitled to that money is the Aunt that Mike despised because she was the next of kin. Chris was appointed executor and was able to pay expenses from the estate and he was allowed to collect a small fee for holding that post but that process took so long that Chris had front the money for the bill for the funeral home.
Yes, a lot of this mess could have been avoided had Mike had the courage to add Chris to his paperwork. It should not take courage to do that but in this country it takes courage to live an open and honest life. It was another step out of the closet and unless you have had to take those steps you will never know the courage it takes. If Chris and Mike had been allowed to get married, instead of having to settle for matching bands, the Aunt would not be listed as next of kin, Chris would have.
Chris, his family and friends miss Mike dearly everyday and are still scarred and somewhat embittered by what Chris has had to endure. Chris’s brother is particularly angry and frustrated by what he witnessed and his brother’s pain because he knows unless he crosses every “T” and dots every “I” he will go through the same thing. Chris’s brother has been in a stable and monogamous and affirming relationship with the same man for almost 27 years but his government does not recognize it as legitimate. As a result Chris’s brother and his partner have very clear wills and have listed each other as primary beneficiaries on all financial paper work.
I am Chris’s brother.
This is why marriage is important and this is why I will become a single issue voter if I have too. Living life in the shadows is not an option for me; living life without the full rights and privileges of the majority is not an option for me.