09/20/2012 05:05 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

I Have a Friend

I have a friend. He's a brilliant writer. He's into clothes and music and food. He probably spends too much time on Gawker. He's kind and supportive and a little snarky at times, too. He's also gay. His partner is a slightly older scientist of some kind. They've been together for 20 years and have lived together for the past 15. They have a happy life, full of supportive family and mutual friends. They saw no need to formalize their relationship after New York began recognizing same-sex marriages.

Recently, they were away together in Colorado. My friend's partner complained of pain in his back. It grew worse. They went to the hospital. Tests revealed nothing. The pain increased. Further tests showed no signs of any serious issue. The pain became unbearable. A third round of tests revealed a tumor on his spine. A tumor on the spine.

Throughout this ordeal my friend felt like a bystander. The doctors wouldn't speak to him, and the nurses treated him like an annoying friend of the family. He was family. This was his partner in terrible pain, thousands of miles from home in an inhospitable hospital. He couldn't provide -- and his partner couldn't receive -- the kind of comfort and input desperately needed from a loved one in such circumstances. He couldn't ask the doctors tough questions and push them for an appropriate diagnosis or realistic prognosis. He felt marginalized and discriminated against, all while his partner was being squeezed by the vice of immense pain and a potential death sentence.

The tumor turned out to be benign. Surgery was scheduled four days after they returned to New York. But before putting Colorado behind them, my friend and his partner went to City Hall. They got a marriage license and made plans for the wedding the following afternoon. And that day, I saw my friend in his best linen suit with a pink silk tie. He looked as empowered and elated as I'd ever seen him.

"Way to go, New York," I said.

"Yeah," my friend sighed with joy. "Yeah."