For the fifth time in as many years, couples here in South Carolina made the trek to the courthouse here in Columbia to try to apply for marriage licenses. Wanda and I have participated four of those years, including this year. The result is always the same. They let us fill out the paperwork so the cameras can get their shots and then they politely tell us to get lost.
Back in the early years, we had three or four couples show up (this year it was just Ed Madden and his partner Bert Easter on the left along with Wanda and me on the right) out of the thousands of gay and lesbian couples living in our state. According to the 2000 Census some 15,000 gay and lesbian partners lived in South Carolina - that's certainly an undercount. The Census also reveals that Sumter County in South Carolina has the third largest number of African-American lesbians raising children. And none of us - even those of us who are willing to be the public face of our civil rights movement, can get the government to recognize our commitment to one another.
Those who can get married take for granted the more than 1,000 rights and privileges granted to couples. Those include the ability to collect your spouse's social security, inheritance rights, the right to make financial and health care decisions in case of hospitalization or incapacitation.
Gay and lesbian couples can spend 50, 60, 70 years together and when one dies, we are strangers under the law. Sure, we can get some papers drawn up giving each other our property upon death or granting power of attorney in matters of finance or health, but don't think those pieces of paper will protect you when a greedy, homophobic family member gets dollar signs in their eyes and revenge in their hearts.
Some people bring up the idiotic religion argument, like God invented marriage, or some other cockamamie idea. Sorry, didn't happen that way. Man created marriage for the sole purpose of passing property to heirs. The church didn't make it a sacrament until the 12th century - preferring to let the state handle the civil matter of marriage. It wasn't until the 1500s that the church required witnesses and a priest to be part of the ceremony, so don't tell me that the church invented marriage. It's just not true.
Besides, I could give a priest's butt if the church ever recognizes same-gender marriage. It's the government that marries people, not the church. The government, under what's left of our Constitution, is required to treat everyone equal under the law - there are no exception and no second-class citizens. Everyone should have the right to protect their committed relationships. Everyone should have the right to collect those more than 1,000 rights and privileges of marriage, because the government isn't a religious entity and it has no right to discriminate under the law.
Of course, the next idiotic argument is, "Well, if two guys or two girls can get married then people will want to marry their dog, or their cat or their houseplant." That's exactly what was said when the Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws. People said that if different races could marry, then next people are going to be marrying their horse. It's a slippery slope argument based in fear and idiocy.
We're advocating marriage rights for two non-related consenting adults who are eligible for marriage (not married before or properly divorced). There should be no reason why gender would matter. Not one good reason in the world.
So, until people understand that same-gender marriage is simply another way that marriage has evolved over the years and come to understand that all discrimination is wrong, we'll keep going to the courthouse and applying for marriage licenses.
The clerk always tells us: "We cannot accept marriage applications from same-gender couples."
I say to her and the rest of America: "One day you will."