For the second time in less than a month, I was in hospital for several days. The first surgery did not go as well as hoped and complications required a second procedure. Today I was released, but the paperwork in the health system is mind-boggling and took far longer than expected.
As I sat on my bed waiting, a middle-aged man accompanied an elderly into the room. He said they were waiting for a patient to arrive. She sat down in a chair and made a few, friendly remarks. Moments later a gurney with an elderly man on it arrived. He was her husband.
During the intake procedure both were very verbal, giving the nurse more information than required. But, I got a snapshot of their life. Both clearly loved to joke, and they spoke of their life-long romance for one another. They recently celebrated their 50th anniversary together. The nurse said she had been married 25 years and asked about their children.
The man told her they never had children. They liked children, but it just never came to be. But they celebrated the core of marriage, the loving bond between two individuals. I smiled as I listened to them talk, it was apparent how well they meshed and why their romance survived so long. But I also thought of others who literally faced a social war meant to destroy their romances and their marriages.
Is it hyperbole to call the battle over gay relationships a war? After all, wars are force; they are the use of organized state violence against someone perceived to be an enemy. But this is precisely what was done. Until 1961, it was a crime to be gay in every part of the United States. Consider how Life magazine covered the issue of gay people in 1963.
Life wrote, "homosexuals everywhere fear arrest" and said that "police drives are regular and relentless." They quoted Inspector James Fisk of the Los Angeles police saying that 3,069 gay people were arrested the previous year but lamenting that this was "merely a 'token number' of those that should have been made." Fisk said, "We're barely touching the surface of the problem. The pervert is no longer as secretive as he was."
The article assured readers that a presidential executive order, in 1953, made homosexuality "an absolute bar to security clearance by the federal government" and said the federal authorities had rules making any gay person employed by them subject to immediate firing for "immoral conduct." Life warned that, "no legal procedures are likely to change society's basic repugnance to homosexuality as an immoral and disruptive force that should somehow be removed."
It literally was a war. Armed men, bestowed with state power, were employed to weed out gay people from society. They routinely used entrapment, harassment and turned a blind eye when gay people were victims of crime. It was not uncommon for the police to act violently against homosexuals. Sadly, that tendency is still found in modern police departments as police attacks in 2009, on gay bars in Atlanta and Fort Worth showed.
Gay couples were actively discriminated against, socially and legally. Every effort was made to force them into hiding, which, for many, pushed them away from relationships. Gays were then blamed for being "promiscuous," and for not staying together like straight couples, even though the later had widespread social and legal support.
In particular, the walk down memory lane by this elderly couple made me think of gay couples who continue to find the government literally, and actively working to force them apart. When I got home from hospital, I opened my Facebook page and found a post reminding me that the state war on gays has not ended -- in spite of gains made.
Seven years ago in Massachusetts, Bradford Wells, an American, legally married Anthony Makk, an Australian. They have been a couple for 19 years. Wells has HIV and Makk is his primary care giver. The couple applied for permission so Makk could become a citizen, but the Obama administration denied the request and ordered Makk's deportation. The official reason is, "The claimed relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary is not a petitionable relationship. For a relationship to qualify as a marriage for purposes of federal law, one partner must be a man and the other a woman."
Wells pointed out that the Defense of Marriage Act gives the federal government powers over gay couples that no libertarian, let alone no "small government" advocate should want to see held by the State. "At this point, the government can come in and take my husband and deport him. It's infuriating. It's upsetting. I have no power, no right to keep my husband in this country. I love this country, I live here, I pay taxes and I have no right to share my home with the person I married."
The power of the State to tear loving couples apart is indeed a frightening, intrusive one. It is one that is still being used to destroy loving, married couples, simply on the basis that both are of the same gender.
For 50 years the couple in the hospital room loved one another and laughed together. They did so with the full support of the legal system, in spite of being childless. For 19 years, Wells and Makk loved one another and laughed together. They did so in the face of the full opposition of the legal system. That they managed 19 years, in spite of the Behemoth State waging war on them, impresses me even more.
Damn right, we need smaller government, and we need it now. We need to trim back the powers of the authorities to intrude into the private lives of Americans. Repealing the Defense of Marriage Act is a good place to start. But other than Gary Johnson, will any Republican join this campaign? I somehow doubt it.