Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Busy life

I haven’t posted since Aug. 7 because too much has been happening to take time to blog about it until now.

We began the morning of Aug. 5 by signing papers to sell wifie's 1995 T-bird to her brother and sister-in-law, who had driven up the night before from Florida.

Next we hustled off to our church's all-day Marriage Equality Summit, which wifie had played a big part in organizing. She had arranged for the keynote speaker, Jack Senterfitt to come up from Atlanta where he is Senior Legal Counsel for Lambda Legal. Other speakers included Jerry Jones of Vanderbilt Medical Center’s Public Affairs Office and Randy Tarkington of the Tennessee Equality Project. Nashville in Harmony provided uplifting harmonies to send us on our way. Nearly 50 people attended from all corners of the state, including Memphis, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Oak Ridge and Murfreesboro.

Follow this link to a local news story about the Summit (complete with a picture taken by yours truly!).

Certain right-wing bigots in our state are pushing a constitutional amendment that would write discrimination into the state constitution. They want to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. The proponents believe that “straight” marriages are somehow jeopardized if people of the same sex are allowed to marry. I have trouble understanding how anyone else getting married could possibly harm my marriage.

They talk about preserving the “sanctity” of marriage. Look up the word “sanctity” in the dictionary: Mine has three definitions: (1) Holiness of life or disposition; saintliness; (2) The quality or condition of being considered sacred; inviolability; and (3) Something considered sacred. These are religious concepts, and according to my understanding of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, the government should stay out of the business of promoting religion. Furthermore, a Justice of the Peace or state judge can perform marriage ceremonies; a church does not have to be involved at all.

The civil institution of marriage gives 1,138 civil rights to married people. These rights are not granted to people in domestic partnerships or civil unions. Therefore, this battle is about civil RIGHTS, not religious RITES.

As a straight person, I have absolutely nothing to gain by putting myself on the line to defend the civil rights of same-sex couples. But look at history. White people needed to stand up for blacks in their struggle for civil rights, and men needed to stand up for women in their struggle for equal pay and civil rights. What side of this struggle is the right one, and which side do you want to be on?

I say it’s time for straight people to come out of the closet.

Three days later, on Aug. 8 wifie and I left for the 5-hour drive to the southern Illinois suburbs of St. Louis. It’s a long story, and I won’t go into too many details here. But it involves helping her sister fight to retain custody of her 3 small children and keep her ex from abusing her and them further. Wifie went to support sis, and I went to support wifie. We spent Tuesday night in a crappy Quality Inn in Caseyville, and then got up the next morning bright and early for the 9 a.m. court date in Edwardsville. She had brought along her mom plus the 3 kids (ages 8, 2 and 1). Her ex told her she had to bring the kids, but we know now that there was no reason for them to come. He didn’t even try to see them, although he knew they had made the 2-day trip up from Florida. So wifie’s sister, mother and 3 kids (2 in diapers) were crammed into a motel room. The only respite was the indoor swimming pool, which wifie and I enjoyed along with the 8 year-old.

After the hearing it became necessary for us to stay another night, because younger sister needed to meet with her attorney, and the only appointment available was late that night.

So picture me standing on the sidewalk in the hot afternoon sunlight with my cell phone, trying to find a motel with a 2-room suite and a pool for that night. Big, loud trucks rumbled by as I strained to hear. After several attempts I finally found another Quality Inn, this time in Fairview Heights that at offered what they call a “one-room suite,” which is somewhat larger a two-bed room with a couch. This one turned out to be much nicer than the previous motel, and they let us check in at 1 p.m., two hours before the published check-in time.

Wifie and I took the 8 year-old out for a late lunch at Chevy’s, then donned our bathing suits for a nice long swim in the motel pool.

Then I drove younger sister 30 miles to the attorney’s office in East Alton, where we waited from 6 to 8 p.m. to see her. I was fairly pissed by this time, but once we sat down with her attorney, I changed my mind. She spent a full two hours with us, and by 10 p.m. we had covered most of the bases. Two more hearings would be scheduled, one of which would require wifie, mother and several others to testify about the jerk.

Last Saturday (Aug. 12) we attended a memorial service for a friend whose son died an untimely death from a heart attack at age 27. It was a musical sendoff, like they do in New Orleans. Our friend asked me to lead off the afternoon, and I played an original song written by my college bandmate Wayne Jones (who died at age 25 of a heart attack). I accompanied two other singers, and we enjoyed 3 ½ hours of great music, most of it written by the performers.

Next week wifie and I have to drive back to Illinois to testify at a court hearing on Aug. 23. Hopefully this will be the last one, but you never know about these things.

You show up for family.

That’s one lesson life has taught me. I showed up for my mother during her last years of life, even though it precipitated the end of my first marriage. But I now realize that marriage had been over for years anyway. I showed up for my late wife when she was diagnosed with leukemia (and died a year later, in 2003). I show up for my late wife’s parents, who are in their late 80s/early 90s in Kokomo, IN. That’s what you do – you show up.

In this case, I show up to take notes and provide suggestions. But it’s a fine line to tread between helping and being too intrusive. A few months ago I may have been resented, but now my assistance is greatly valued.

So that’s why I haven’t posted more recently.

I hope to get back to posting funny stuff soon. I bring my camera along wherever we go, and I’ve accumulated some amusing photos that I’ll post soon. One was a sign we noticed in the elevator of the crappy Quality Inn. It was pasted over the little door to the elevator phone and said, “IN CASE OF EMERGENCE USE PHONE.” That’s right – EMERGENCE! We thought, “Wow – if something emerges from that door, I don’t think I’m gonna try to get the phone!”

If something started emerging from the phone door, it would be like….



Margie said...

I completely agree with you on the whole gay marriage issue. I'm straight and married and have no problems letting other people - who love each other- get married.

P.S. Hope everything works out for you and your family (re: most current post).

RunAwayImagination said...

Thanks for the comment, Margie!

You live in a "blue" state with more liberal politics, whereas I live in one of the "red" states. Southern cities like Nashville tend to be "blue," but the majority of the rural areas surrounding the cities "red." This means more traction for stupid social issues that divide people along religious and cultural lines. These issues unfortunately propel politicians into office who are willing to exploit peoples' proclivities to hate one another. (What is it about people, anyway?)

One big problem we have is that straight people don't think they have anything at stake in the "gay marriage" issue, so a lot of us will tend to sit on our hands and let someone else fight these battles. But we have to remember that if the rights of ANY of us are abridged, then the rights of ALL of us are abridged. This was true in the Civil Rights struggle as it was in the struggle to give women the right to vote. In other words, it took white people to stand up for the rights of blacks, and it took men to stand up for the rights of women.

I agree with you. We need more people loving each other and making commitments, regardless of whether they are the same or different sex. What's wrong with love?

Wife and I returned safe and sound last night from the custody hearing. (See today's post for more details.)

Having to attend the custody hearing on the heels of our Marriage Equality Summit made me think that that heterosexual couples give society a lot more trouble than homosexual ones.