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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