Mark Segal

Marriage Equality: From Paper to Practice

Filed By Mark Segal | August 05, 2014 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: gay marriage, hospital visitation, legal rights, marriage equality, same-sex marriage

bigstock-Wedding-Rings-1182182.jpgWho would have thought that a broken arm would lead anyone to appreciate marriage equality?

About a month ago, my partner of 10 years, Jason, and I were married. At the time, like many longtime partners, we thought -- well, I thought -- it's just a piece of paper. We'll get married and go on living like before.

Then, while on a motor scooter -- something that Jason advised me against -- I was in an accident that broke my arm and required surgery.

First up was the police report. Was I married, they asked. Then the ambulance medical team and their paperwork. Then the numerous doctors and clinics I had to go to in order to be cleared for surgery. The EKG, lab workup, and physical all had forms with that box to check: married.

But it was the day of the surgery that it really became apparent.

Doing the paperwork, I again checked "married," and then added Jason as my next of kin and the person responsible for my medical decisions during the procedure if needed, which made me aware of how oppressive the refusal of marriage recognition really is.

Since for a long time we hadn't ever had the expectation of a marriage, with the legal rights and responsibilities it brings, many of us had always listed our friends in that box. Then Jason made it even more apparent to me when he insisted that he was taking me to the procedure, and taking off work to care for me. It was his duty, and I should just expect it.

But the best was when I was taken back to be prepped for surgery. At first I was led alone, then when the nurse became aware that Jason was my spouse -- I really like this -- she said, "Oh, he's family," and then added in a loud voice, "your husband." Then she explained that family was allowed to be in the prep room.

She went out and grabbed Jason and proudly stated as she marched him back to my temporary room, "He's his husband, and family is allowed here in prep." She went on to tell us about her 90-year-old gay uncle.

Clearly, marriage is more than a piece of paper -- I'm learning that lesson each day. And it's one of the most joyous lessons I've ever had. But please don't give me a pop quiz just yet: I'm still learning.

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