Laurel Hester has spent her whole life trying to make the world a better place. That is why the events that have followed her diagnosis with terminal lung cancer a year ago have seemed so strange to her. She assumed a lifetime spent making the world a better place for others would entitle her to a measure of fairness in her time of desperate need.
Laurel Hester was wrong.
Earlier this year, New Jersey State changed its laws to allow counties to give domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples. But Laurel’s county–Ocean County–has chosen not to do so. Without those benefits, specifically her pension benefits, Laurel’s partner, Stacie Andree, stands to lose their home after Laurel is gone. When the dying woman first asked the five elected “freeholders” who manage Ocean County to grant those benefits, they ignored her request for six months. Then they finally said no.
First, they said no because her same-sex relationship offended them.
Then they said no because it would cost the county too much, even though they had not a single fact to back up their claim.
The final time they didn’t actually say no. Instead, during a meeting with Laurel and her supporters, they simply ran away from the wheelchair-bound woman.
Literally. Five grown men, all allegedly Christians, ran out of the meeting through a back door and left a dying woman sitting there.
Christmas is this week, and the freeholders, all Republicans, will be with their friends and family, secure in their knowledge that their loved ones are protected should they die.
Laurel, meanwhile, will spend her last Christmas–indeed, her last days–with fear over her partner’s future gnawing away at her.
And their lame-ass reason for such coldness? They feared that granting Laurel’s request meant “destroying the sanctity of marriage”.
Hey! Whatever happened to that fabled Christian goodwill, fellas? Does it not extend to dying lesbians, too? Doesn’t someone who served her community as bravely, faithfully and unselfishly as Laurel Hester has done, deserve more consideration than that? Have a little charity at least, even if you can’t empathize. I’m just as straight as you are, but I have no problem with the idea of a lesbian inheriting her dying partner’s assets. I don’t consider that particularly charitable, though; to me it’s just common sense. They’ve been living together as married for all intents and purposes, so why not deal with them as if they were married in fact, albeit common-law (since state law doesn’t yet allow for anything else–although it does allow for domestic-partner benefits)?
But there…that must be the secular humanist in me coming out. Or the polytheistic pagan. For I have this notion of common sense which is apparently way too broad-minded for your right-wing so-called Christian. I think everyone has the right to be treated equally, regardless of color, creed or sexual orientation. And I think it’s only common sense that the laws of the land reflect that basic right. And I can’t for the life of me see how the sanctity of anyone else’s marriage is violated by recognizing the love of two women as its equal!
Is this the evil secular humanism that the right-wing has declared war on–the same they claim is destroying Christmas? I guess it must be. But the more one looks at their deeds (“by their fruits shall ye know them”), the more I think it is they who are destroying that holiday, indeed that entire creed, and not folks like me. For you see, I don’t use my religion as a shield for shitty behavior. I have only one commandment: “An it harm none, do what thou wilt”–and I do not see any harm in recognizing the inheritance rights of a lesbian couple. “Harm none” covers a vast turf, and at the same time, it strictly forbids hypocrisy for the harm it can do. Jesus called the Pharisees “whited sepulchres” for their ostentatious hypocrisy, and he was right. You can paint a tombstone any color you like, but the rotting corpse inside the coffin still stinks. Being a complete bastard to other people in the name of religion is a terrific way of giving your so-called religion a bad name.
If anything is going to save Christianity, it is secular humanism.