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Jessica's Story - Page 2

What Rights Do I Have as an American?

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Jessica's Story - Page 2

Catherine on Left, Jessica on Right

© Courtesy of Jessica Du Bois
I work 40 or so hours a week and pay a truckload of taxes, to pay the salary of a president who decided that gay marriage should be outlawed. How many states have made it a crime for same sex couples to get married? As of March of 2007, 32 of our 50 states have anti-gay laws on the books! . The Defense of Marriage Act was passed in 1996, (contrary to popular belief, it wasn't Bush who signed it into effect, it was Clinton!)and it officially barred federal benefits to same-sex unions.

Defense of Marriage?

Defense of marriage?? What exactly are they defending? An over 55% divorce rate? To make legal as many lousy marriages as solid ones, simply because the marriage exists between a man and a woman? The 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States dictates that, "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." I was forced to memorize that in the 11th grade. Little did I know then that those words would mean little or nothing in my real life.

So, how many states have completely ignored our own constitution? My right to marry the person I love, as we were both citizens of the United States, as been barred! Gays and lesbians are deprived of the liberties granted heterosexuals. Gay and lesbians do NOT have equal protection under the law. When a straight married man dies, his social security automatically goes to his wife. No questions asked. When my Catherine died, all the money she paid to social security doesn't go to her wife: it stays right there in the government greedy hands. So many of the "TINKS" (two incomes, no kids) gay couples, when one dies, the states keep every red cent of the social security that they paid their entire working lives. The surviving spouse gets nothing. How is that equality to all persons of the United States?

Our Canadian Marriage isn't Recognized Here

Catherine and I preferred to live our lives in peace. We knew we had no rights as a legally married couple when we crossed the Canadian border back into America, but we went to Canada anyway. We refused to allow the government of the United States to deprive us of our right to be legally married. We had every intention of returning to Canada within the next two years, because we knew we deserved--everyone deserves--to be treated with dignity, respect, and to have our marriage treated as any heterosexual couple's marriage: equally.

How and why is it possible that laws exist that prevent me from marrying legally the person I love? Why is it that all the gay and lesbian people who work and pay the salaries of our government, get so few of the benefits of being an American. We gay or lesbians don't get a choice as to whether our tax dollars fund anti-gay legislature. No one gives us the choice not to pay social security because our surviving spouse cannot legally utilize it to continue to live on after they lose their loved one. That's what social security is for isn't it: to financially assist the surviving spouse, as well as the elderly and debilitated?

I don't give a damn about money. My anger is not that I don't get Catherine's social security--hell I want my wife back! But the reality is that I have to fight for every single thing I have. The law will allow the people who financed my wife's car to repossess it because I have no legal claim to it. I am Catherine's wife, and I have no rights. Why did it take me so long to figure this out with such clarity? I've understood for a long time that the rights of the GLBT population were pretty much nil. But the glaringly obvious discrimination that gay and lesbian people have no choice but to live with, hit me with full force today for the first time.

How Can I Stay Here?

I have to leave the county I was born in, and have lived in for almost 40 years. The country my wife gave 5 years of her life to as a captain in the United States Air Force. We've done everything any American could do to be treated fairly and with respect--and the collective we--gays and lesbians--have been and will continue to be discriminated against.

Toronto will be my new home. I've decided that when my contract ends in Washington, it's time to wrap it up in this country. The only reason I'm waiting is that because I have job that is regulated by the government, I have to take a monumental nursing exam to practice in Canada, so I will need to jump through those hoops before I can move there. I guess I could immigrate sooner, but going to Canada and not being able to work will not only bore me half to death, but would waste the money I'll have put away for this next phase of my life. So I'll keep paying my taxes, contributing to social security, and abiding by all the laws of this country. But very soon, I will leave and I'm not sure if I'll ever come back. I certainly won't come back here to live. I matter; and as simply a human being, my rights matter.
by Jessica Du Bois

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