|Gov. Pat Quinn signing law allowing gay marriage in Illinois, November, 2013.|
Death was one rite of passage that could not be denied gay people. Back when they weren’t allowed to get married or adopt children, or sometimes even hold jobs, unless they concealed their true selves, they would still die, just like regular folks. Newspapers were then sometimes called upon to write their obituaries.
Which posed a problem, back in the 1980s. Because their unofficial partners, the people who loved them and knew them best, their spouses without paperwork, while very real, could not be included in the printed summations of their lives. Newspapers had standards to maintain. We had rules, policies.
That began to chafe, as AIDS scythed through the community. Barring their loved ones, who often cared for them while their disapproving blood relations turned their backs, seemed too cruel, even for daily journalism. Dodges were found. “He was a wonderful man,” said his “close friend,” or “longtime companion,” or “roommate.”
The effort to catch government attention and actually fight AIDS helped break the silence — “Silence = Death,” remember? As the LGBTQ community stepped out of the shadows, it became harder to marginalize. It turned out that a significant part of the population is gay. They were brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers.
And all the reasons — haters always have reasons, they lack the courage, the honesty to admit their own bottomless fear and baseless loathing — for denying them regular rites of passage turned out to be nonsense. Allowing gays to marry did not destroy the institution for straights any more than allowing them to die undercut the solemnity of funerals. What legal same-sex marriage meant was less insecurity, more happy families, less abuse, more children with two-parent homes.
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