Gay Marriage | An Intimate and Social Perspective, by Armando Diaz

Gay Marriage | An Intimate and Social Perspective
by Armando Diaz

The issue of gay marriage has been a wondrous evolution
of principle, passion and polarization in this country. It has
evolved from something seemingly unattainable, to being
the single issue in American politics that has galvanized
more response from the people than that of melting ice
caps or the death penalty. We are certainly living in curious
times as Americans. As we continue to guide ourselves
through it all, regardless which side of the issue you might
find yourself on.

From its inception in 1987 during the third march on
Washington DC for LGBT rights to its current dance within
the the Supreme Court, gay marriage is now a very real
institution in and of itself.  However there is still much to
understand from both a personal and social point of view.

To assist us in this dialogue, we have employed the
opinions of (2) brilliant couples who navigated the waters
of this process. David & Marcelo, as well as Ken & Wes.

David is a Life Coach and Psychotherapist and Marcelo is
a visual artist and designer. Ken is a Doctor of Psychology
working in program development locally and worldwide, as
well as a passionate community activist. Wes has just
completed his studies at FIU in International Business, is
involved in his family’s businesses abroad and is a board
member of Unity Coalition|Coalicion Unida and an LGBT
community activist.

How long have you gentlemen been married now?

D&M – We have been married for two years

K&W – We were married March 30th 2013, thus making it
just over 2 years. Though we have been together for 7 years
beginning in Cambodia and then fighting to stay here in the
USA since 2011.

I’m a hopeless romantic on marriage proposals. Can you
tell me a little about yours?

D&M – We really did not have a traditional marriage proposal situation. We had been talking for a long time about getting married, and
mutually decided to go and do it after being together 18 years at that point.

K&W – Funny to think back to this. Originally I was going to propose to Wes over the New Year holiday in 2010 in Bangkok Thailand but I
suddenly had to leave SE Asia and return to the USA. Wes came to the states in the beginning of 2011 and our lives changed in many
ways of course. Marriage in Florida was not legal of course and being married could jeopardize his visa status so we held off until 2013
in hopes that DOMA would be overturned in June of the same year. Honestly I don’t think there was an official proposal but certainly a
sense of excitement as we planned our wedding at the Jefferson Memorial in DC with close friends joining us. A beautiful day on so
many levels; for us and historically.

What differences do you feel now that you are ‘legally’ married as opposed to when you were a domestic partnership?

D&M – The biggest difference is that we feel recognized in the eyes of the law and by society, which
makes us feel protected, more secure, and safer from discrimination.

K&W – Being in a binational relationship where only one person has security as a citizen is constantly
anxiety provoking and unsettling. Neither of us ever felt like we were permanent to Miami or to the USA
before DOMA was overturned, always knowing in the back of our heads that we might have to leave the
country again to be with each other. Ironic thinking that we had more rights in a war torn dictatorship of
Wes’ home country than we did in the USA.

Even after federal changes and Wes gaining his Green Card, we still did not feel settled in Florida.
FIU refused to recognize Wes as a citizen and give the benefits that go with that for tuition and other
purposes and Florida continued to discriminate in every possible way. We still could not feel accepted
in our state simply because we loved each other. It was additionally frustrating watching how hard our
State leaders fought against us. It hurt as an individual and made us both want to leave Florida.
All of these feelings were relieved once Florida also made changes and we finally decided to settle
and stay here in Miami. There was a sense of validation. Though in the back of our heads we do worry
that those basic legal rights could be stripped any time by our legislators.

This week North Carolina’s Republican-controlled state House passed a “Gay Marriage Exemption
Bill”. Basically it allows certain court officials the option to stop fulfilling their duties in relation to
gay marriages, due to their religious beliefs. The bill is now law in that state as of Thursday June
11th. Same-sex marriage became legal there last Fall. What are your thoughts on this?

D&M – This is a very sad development. While we have moved forward quite a bit, this was a big step backward.
Until this issue is settled once and for all on a Federal level, we will likely see bills like this passed in different states. This  turn of events
clearly speaks to the need for a federal law legalizing same sex marriage.

Also, once a worker or official of the court refuses to perform these duties, they cannot perform weddings for at least a period of
six months. What advice do you have for gay and lesbian couples in North Carolina seeking to get married, that run into this issue?

D&M – They need to do their research and make sure that anyone involved in their proceedings will follow through with all the legal
requirements. In this process, they will hopefully find  someone in the state of N. Carolina who will perform their marriage and related
functions.

I find a principal argument from the conservatives in this country, has been that gay marriage will destroy the thousands-year old
institution of holy matrimony. It’s been stated frequently that gay people cannot procreate, which is the reason that “marriage” and
“civil union” are two different things. Your thoughts on this now as a same-sex married couple?

D&M – The whole procreation
argument is ridiculous, and
it is used as a smokescreen
for the purposes of
discrimination. Procreation
and marriage are not
necessarily connected. For
example, in a heterosexual
couple, if a woman is unable
to conceive, or a man is not
fertile, is that couple
prevented from marrying?
No, they are not.  Other
examples : if a male-female
couple is not married, does
that mean that they cannot
procreate? No, it does not –
In fact, there are many
couples who have children
out of wedlock. Also, if a
couple chooses not to have
children, are they prevented
from marrying? No, they are
not. Based on all of the
above, it is clear that
marriage and procreation
are not inextricably connected,
and this is really a non-issue.

K&W – Well, we’re not so
sure that heterosexuals
have exactly done well
protecting that state of holy matrimony with any level of dignity or respect so have very little space to talk or judge. Marriage is about love
and commitment. It is about a bond between two people. And it is about the law in the end. Love has no restrictions and should be
embraced and celebrated as should the rituals of marriage no matter who is in love. And of course, we all deserve the same protection
under law and that includes the protections within marriage. Our world and certainly our love is not defined by a centuries old book
written in a different era and being used as a means of hate and judgment.

A few days ago  a straight married couple in Australia threatened to divorce, as a “matter of
conscience” if their government legalizes gay marriage.  Conversely, Ireland (one the most
Catholic nations on Earth), passed gay marriage into law based on popular vote by the people.
What would you say to Nick and Sarah Jensen of Australia? And what would you say to the
people of Ireland?

D&M – To the Jensens – what you do is your choice, and you need to stay out of other peoples’ lives.
Your actions and statements are evidence of your bigotry and hatred.
To Ireland – Kudos for such an evolved response despite your strongly religious conservative

background – you have done the right thing.

In your particular experience. What (legal, civic, bureaucratic) challenges did you face during
the process that led up to the day when you both said “I do”

D&M – There were many, including health insurance coverage not being extended to both despite
having lived together as a married couple for 18 years, dual property ownership not being legally
recognized pending our legal marriage, and fears of not being able to care for each other in the
event of a medical emergency re: Health Care Proxy, Will, etc…;

K&W – Our biggest hurdle was citizenship of course. Wes is from Cambodia and came to the USA
on an f1 via as a student. But, at the time under US Law we could not be married and protected under
the same laws that protected heterosexual couples. He would potentially face being deported or the
two of us leaving to be together.
Our later struggles with FIU’s discriminatory policies based on those policies of the State of Florida, were about financial on one large
level and on principles for another. We could not stand by and Wes became the first student to have his in state status recognized
through a gay marriage.

What advice do you have for our
own community, as far as what
hurdles they can expect if they

are seeking to get married.
What can they do to avoid any
serious setbacks?

D&M – First and foremost, if there
are any potential legal issues,
consult with an experienced
attorney before getting married.
Depending on your situation,
there may be issues that could
end up being barriers. This can
be prevented with sound advice
from an knowledgeable and
experienced attorney. This is
particularly true for bi-national
couples, and any other couple
dealing with immigration issues.

K&W – Couples are now very
lucky to have the ability to marry
in our State and across most
of this country. If one partner
is of a different nationality
I suggest strongly that they seek legal advice and guidance. The process of marriage and immigration is more complicated than most
know and moving forward without that guidance could jeopardize everything.
Other than that, simply fall in love, be good and kind to each other, get a license and make the wedding fabulous!

What effects do you feel marriage equality will have on our gay community and culture as we move forward? What effect do feel it
will bring to our civilization as a whole?

D&M – Marriage equality is a step toward greater acceptance, tolerance and compassion for others. Freedom and equality are not just for
select groups – they are for everyone. As our equal status is recognized on a federal level, we will have taken a big step out of the
‘shadows’. This “leveling of the playing field’ will allow us to get on with the business of living without the fear of the institutionalized
discrimination that we have been forced to live in. This can only help civilization move forward with more acceptance, compassion and
understanding.

It is validation and acceptance. This fight for equality is not asking for any
special rights but simply the same rights and the same simple desire to
express our love and commit to the person we want to be with. Pretty
harmless and seems like something that should be celebrated and have a
wonderful impact on our community and humanity.
   Ambiente cover– Ken & Weslee

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Determined to Defeat DOMA (featured from the DOMA Project)

Leaving Cambodia Behind, Ken & Wes Settle Down to Married Life in Florida, Determined to Defeat DOMA

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We met in the summer of 2008 in beautiful and exotic Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I had been there since 2004 working in developing nations as a doctor for advocacy, child protection, LGBT and human rights, trauma, HIV/AIDS. I also worked in the development of mental health systems in Southeast Asia, India, and Africa. Wes was one of the top students for International Business as well as a part of the social elite in Cambodia. We met through Wes’ dean, who happened to be my best friend. She would bring Wes with her to events and meetings and even social outings as part of his role as University Ambassador. The attraction was clear; the spark ignited. After hours of phone calls going late into the night plus courting, teasing, and flirting, our feelings turned into a relationship. Years later, across oceans and hardship, we continue.

Wes quickly found his passion for advocacy and development, becoming a key member in my governmental and non-governmental organizations. Wes particularly focused on the development of protection and assistance for his own people who suffered greatly from past genocide and the current oppressive regime of the prime minister. At the same time, life was fabulous with glamorous events, dinners, royals, celebrities, parties, ceremonies, and exotic travels; but in reality it was not an easy endeavor to work with a government when it was the government that was responsible for the very problems we hoped to address. Nonetheless, our relationships and passion made the experience not just bearable but full of love and fun. Our work together was exciting, caring, compassionate, risky and frightening all at the same time. In spite of the dangers we faced in our work to bring about change, one of the biggest obstacles was having to hide our relationship from Wes’ family and from society for fear of being harmed and outcast. Though not ideal, it brought us even closer together and made our love and commitment that much stronger.

We found love, we grew, and thrived on the intrigue and challenge involved in our work. However, eventually our situation became too dangerous as our work placed us at odds with powerful leaders who did not wish to be exposed for their corruption and abuses. As the situation became unmanageable, I was forced to leave the country out of fear for my safety, leaving Wes behind in the protection of his family. We were both persecuted on many levels, but with the help of Wes’ wonderful family and hard work, a path was found for him to also escape to America six months later. It was a very long six months, but we had the happiest of reunions here in Miami – our new home.

Wes is now in school again and preparing to graduate while I continue my work as a human rights activist, an equality advocate, and as a private practice psychologist. In the meantime, the two of us are enjoying the beauty, culture, and life that is South Beach, a big change from our previous home. From the security of U.S., we were also able to pursue our dream of getting married. We married in D.C. on March 30th, 2013 with a reception here in Miami shortly thereafter.

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Despite all our success and our love, we struggle with the fact that as a binational couple we are still feeling vulnerable because the Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the federal government from recognizing our marriage and allowing me to sponsor my husband for permanent residency. As a result, we feel threatened in our freedoms and our ability to stay together. After working in nations fraught with extreme oppression brutal regimes; it is sadly ironic that we may one day be forced to leave the “Land of the Free” in order to find a place that allows us to be able to spend the rest of our lives together.

We share our story and speak out in public as much as we can to help bring change and to help our fellow binational couples who have not had the good fortune to find a way to live together. Far too many live separated from their loved one, simply because DOMA prohibits them from sponsoring their spouse/fiancé(e) for residency. If we all get involved and share our stories, DOMA can be overturned and people can be with the ones they love. As The DOMA Project mission reminds us, we must ensure that the our elected officials, the Supreme Court, and the court of public opinion are aware that there are people, lives, and love behind these laws! Thank you for reading and sharing our story.

Love and Marriage

Gay Marriage

 So seriously, what is all the fuss? I mean isn’t the idea of getting married and settling down something that we all should support including those from the right politically. I mean, would they rather all those gay people continue to be out there sleeping around, spreading their diseases, and corrupting the straight people into a life of sin? Is that their preference? Yes, I know, the moral decline of America, the end of traditional marriage and families, the damning to hell by the Church and their hypocritical staff, and so many other reasons that gay marriage should be prevented. Yes, if we stop it, that is what will keep America safe and moral…sure!

So those to the right of this issue will continue to fight on these “moral” grounds while continuing to fight against exactly what this nation is supposed to stand for – freedom, liberty, EQUALITY.  It is not about the religious aspects of marriage that I would even argue, but about two other things. The first is law and discrimination within it. If someone is legally recognized as married, then by law they should have the same legal rights. Notice, I say “legal” rights and not human rights. Over 1000 laws and benefits are missing for gay marriage because of this discrimination including family protection, Immigration, hospital rights, tax, and so many others.  Hell, if I could have gotten married and had it legally recognized, I would have saved a good $30,000 last year in tuition, insurance and taxes.  Does that seem fair? I know, life isn’t fair.  I should just suck it up and deal with it. And I do! But we are “not a land of discrimination” despite our past and current drives to discriminate against anyone and everyone we can.  Hypocrisy at its best…

Don’t get me started on Immigration issues and other federal benefits. Personally, I met my partner while living overseas doing work in development and child protection, mental health, education, advocacy and health care. I worked under dictatorships, had my life in jeopardy more than I can count, but fought for their protection and freedoms. Only to come home to a country with the person I love and told that even the Great and Free Country of the United States of America will not protect some freedoms of equality and the person that I love.

Can you imagine the idea of having to LEAVE America to find MORE freedom? Really? This is what is faced by so many…myself included…

But the main reason I argue in favor is for the simple idea of love and family. Nothing is more human than that. So, some men like men, some women like women, and then there is that mix and match that we call heterosexuality. All seems pretty fabulous to me. They share, they protect, they comfort and they respect each other. They build families and help their communities. They are just people in the end trying to find love and happiness in a sometimes cruel little world.

Are we really fighting to stop this when we can focus our energy on trying to stop child trafficking, bullying, abuse, rape, terrorism, and so many other things that hurt people? Does my love for another really hurt you? Does it cause those types of violence and destruction? I think not and if you do, well then you need some time on a couch with a good therapist, or simply maybe need to find some love in your life as well as you clearly are suffering and angry.

So to all the Gay Marriage haters out there, I say relax a little, maybe have a drink or two and move all that energy and hate back to focusing on yourself and why you are so unhappy with who you are and your own state of being. Focus on things that really matter in your life, your community, and the world that you can impact and change for the good without spewing hate and ignorance. Hate and ignorance and even discrimination have been a hallmark of America and the world throughout history. In the end, most learn to accept and include others and change becomes inevitable.

I always place my bet on humanity and acceptance…and maybe LOVE really does always win out in the end!

It did for me!

And the world did not end…

Hate Hate and more Hate

Hate Hate and more Hate

I know this conversation has happened over and over but I feel the need to share my thoughts and experiences with it. I still sit back and am amazed over the amount of hate and intolerance in this world no matter to whom that hate is directed. Even my friends sometimes will say things in all seriousness that just takes me by surprise including comments about guns, gays, blacks, women, muslims…it doesn’t seem to matter to whom it is directed or to how ignorant and delusional they may sound in the process.

See, I DO feel I share a unique perspective having traveled to nearly 100 countries, surrounded myself with every culture, religion, and race there is. Enmeshed myself in those cultures and worked with those governments. Sure, I have had biases and lived by stereotypes as well, but at least have made an attempt to challenge them and grow verse being stifled by my own arrogance and living under the guise of God, religion, politics or money…

Why have I been spurred to write this?…well, many reasons, but one being that I have recently been criticized for all the work I do to bring equality to the LGBT community here in the United States. It is funny to me that I never get criticized for all the work I have done in 3rd world nations and in America for helping women who have been abused, children who are trafficked, poor people from having their land stolen in Cambodia, religious tribes from being exterminated in Africa and rape victims all over the world from being left to suffer, hated or punished for being victims themselves. But when it comes to gays, the same people who praise me for helping these others attain equality, safety, and assistance, are the first to criticize me for helping gay people achieve the SAME…and yet, they are unable to see their hypocrisy. “They deserve to suffer”, “they are evil”, “they are sinners”! Can people hear themselves? Seriously? “God says that it is wrong”…hmmmm, I think I have “heard” the same ignorant response for centuries used against every other possible minority or group…I would hate to be on the wrong side of this argument…again.

So we carry on with the Boy Scouts (and MANY other groups) continuing to question if they should be a role model and not discriminate (like this should even be a thought), for the Congress to continue to pledge to fight against allowing gays equality in marriage or immigration when America itself is based upon the idea of equality and fairness no matter who the person is. Shouts of religious freedom, as if there is only one religion and that one somehow delusionally states that all gays are sinners and SHOULD be hated and excluded. What kind of religion is that? What kind of government is that? What kind of people are we?

Can you imagine the thought of having to move to another nation than America to gain MORE freedom? I face that every day as I think about my future. Do you? Can you imagine thinking the only way out is suicide because you have been outcast by your society, bullied, beaten? I work with these people and help to save their lives and find hope in the world. They ARE people – sons, daughters, brothers and sister, friends and co-workers. Do you? The answer is likely no, you just continue to hate and base your experiences on a very sheltered life and very sheltered way of thinking. You don’t stop to think about what your hate does to people around you, to those that are part of your family, to those that are facing the ideas of suicide as a means of expressing their depression and sense of desperation.

I for one, will continue to fight for all of those in need and at-risk. I will continue to fight for EQUALITY and understanding and acceptance! Live your life and let people live theirs. Simple respect, kindness and a small amount of empathy can get us so much further than you can imagine. And everyone deserves to feel safe…to feel loved.

Equality is for all. Hate is for the weak.