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The Truth About Marriage: Civil rights expert to take on marriage equality in Bend 

Civil rights expert to take on marriage equality in Bend.

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I can't put the book down and I can't stop talking about it. Let me share with you one of my favorite quotes from Evan Wolfson's Why Marriage Matters, America, Equality and Gay People's Right to Marry:

"It was so cool," said Gabriel, thirteen, who served as the ringbearer, after standing in line overnight with his parents. "I always accepted that 'Yeah, they're my moms,' but they were actually getting married. I felt thick inside with happiness. Just thick."

Right there explains why we should care about marriage equality- it's about family and there is no better word than marriage to explain it. There are many ways that only marriage can allow you to protect and care for the people you love. Whether it's being able to sit by the bedside of your spouse at the hospital or being able to provide health insurance for your children, marriage provides some real rights and privileges that some families in Oregon are now being denied. It provides children of same sex couples the security and dignity that comes with being part of a caring and committed family.

As someone who has been working in the gay rights movement for almost eight years, I am always surprised at how little people know and understand about the discrimination that still exists in our communities. In recent conversations, it has become clear that people, even our allies, don't know that domestic partnerships are not the same as marriage. That of the six states where same sex marriage is legal, when a married same sex couple crosses the border into another state, their marriage is no longer recognized or valid. That means if a family on a road trip experiences an accident, a parent may not be able to sit with his or her children in ICU because their marriage is not valid in a different state. Just imagine if that were your family. And of course, in Oregon, same sex couples are being excluded from marriage, but they deserve better, our communities deserve better.

During the 2004 election in Oregon, discrimination was written into our state constitution with Amendment 36 which defined marriage as between one man and one woman. In Oregon, we must overturn Amendment 36 before we can have full marriage equality. In 2007, the state of Oregon passed domestic partnership benefits for same sex couples, but domestic partnerships do not provide the full legal and societal benefits of marriage.

One example is Luis and Patrick, an Oregon couple who registered for a domestic partnership here in Oregon so they would be protected in the event of a crisis. But when Luis was gravely ill in the hospital, and the nurse said he might be dying, Patrick was told that he couldn't be at his bedside to hold his hand. The hospital said Patrick wasn't "family." There are hundreds if not thousands of stories like theirs across the country.

In Oregon, we are on the path to equality. Human Dignity Coalition in Bend is working with others in our community towards the Freedom to Marry and is beginning now to have these important conversations before the issue ever reaches the ballot, which may not be until 2012. That gives us plenty of time to have these conversations - neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend. The more people talk to others, the more they come to see there is no good reason to deny marriage to couples who are completely committed to each other. Before the stakes get too high, before tempers flare in an election, we can choose to bring it out in the open and talk about why marriage matters for gay and non-gay people in our lives.

Wolfson, who Time Magazine names one of the 100 most powerful and influential people in the world, is coming to speak at the Old Stone Church in Bend on November 3 at 7pm. He will give us all the confidence to speak about why marriage matters so that we can begin having these crucial conversations. For more information: www.humandignitycoalition.org or 541.385.3320

Evan Wolfson

7 p.m. Tuesday, November 3

Old Stone Church, 157 NW Franklin Ave.
385-3320 or www.humandignitycoalition.org.

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