Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why Marriage Matters

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.


  1. Wow! Thank you for sharing that story. Prayers to you, Chris and everybody who knew Mike. As an ally, I look forward to the day I don't have to read the stories ever again.

  2. WOW, I cannot find the previous comment I posted, so I feel sooo strongly about this article, & out of respect for Mike..Here I go again... Who the "f" is our government to say you can - or you cannot love someone?...Politics are ignorant, as we all know.Ive, for some reason always been an advocate for the gay & lesbian society, my heart breaks hearing the news of the young rutger's student killing himself because he was very sad, . Donald, hopefully you have opened many eyes as to such as small but very important matter" A will", I do not have as of yet, but by the month's end, we will...Please, tell Chris Mike is with him now & always will be,Im sure he doesnt feel this at times, but I do believe!! I think of Mikey often & Im sad to say I havent eaten a fresh garlic pizza since he passed...... thats what we shared, along with many giggles...I also look forward to the day, when people can hold thier heads high because of what they have become & accomplished instead of what people will think, kind of makes me think back to the slavery years...because of a color?...thats certainly not my God...thanks for the tears, you made me feel good about myself (without knowing it)...and our will , hopefully will be contracted by the months end. Doanld , have a wonderful day:)...Its great knowing you & being able to work so closly with a REAL MAN!..

  3. Donald.

    Homophobia is a blight - not only in American society, but in many other countries world wide.

    Its just a shame some people cant see by their own failings and choose to point the finger of blame for an ill perceived fear of something different.

    I have a friend who is homosexual, he is a wonderful human being whom I have the utmost respect for - he is accepted for being who he is by my circle of friends and not by his life choice! - each to his own.

    Life is hard enough as it is without bigoted prejudices often placed in our way by authorities who have no right to dictate the manner in which any of us choose to live our lives.

    What ever happens between consenting adults
    (regardless of their sexual orientation) in the privacy of their own home home is nobody's business but their own.

    Keep the faith my friend

  4. While this story is sad there is one thing that is not addressed... Would they really have been married if they could? Sorry but he didn't feel comfortable enough to list his "partner" as a beneficiary, didn't write a will... what is there about coming out of the closet with that? They are done with privacy and this would be no different if a man and women were living together. EVEN if they could get married that is a much bigger step of coming out of the closet than just listing as a beneficiary.

    Look I support gay marriage, those that choose to be with another of the same sex should have to deal with the same BS those that choose to be with the opposite sex and YES there is a difference I have lived with a girlfriend, fiancée and wife... it changes but I really don't like the coulda... shoulda... woulda... part. What Chris went through was horrible BUT it was not because he was gay... It was because his partner didn't fully commit to him.

  5. To Anonn 4:57
    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Coming out can be a painful process but it does not have to be if we had a more enlighten culture-if gay people were not viewed as different or as bad but just as way of love, then Mike's jouney would not have had been as difficult.

    If Mike and Chris could have gotten married Mike would not have had the issues he had and the horror of the aftermath would have never happened and we would have just been able to mourn Mike and not suffer the indignty of the state.

  6. TBD - Thank you for the comment - But then I don't really understand prejudice of any kind. It all seems like small minds at work. If people were just allowed to be themselves.....I know it is a bit Pie-in-the-sky but without hope all is lost.

  7. To Anon 11:55 - Thank you for commenting and we appreciatee your kind words - The thing is you do not really need a will - the state will protect your loved ones because you are married - despite the fact that I pay taxes to the state the offer me no such protection. I do not enjoy the same rights as you. But, be smart and get a will it will save your loved ones from a lot grief down the road.

  8. To Anon 10:47 Thanks - As my friend Bill Clinton once said "I still believe in a place called Hope" Without it I am nothing, without hope I am lost - Even though my glass is always half empty the half that is there is Hope.

  9. Biff
    Thanks for catching up and really thanks for just saying that. It speaks volumes