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OutServe Magazine | July 1, 2013

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Impatient for Equality

Impatient for Equality
Sue Fulton

Last week, an editorial ran in USA Today with a photo of my wife Penny and me getting married at the West Point Cadet Chapel (and has been removed after publication). The editorial was the latest in a set of arguments from the anti-marriage-equality side suggesting that they hold no malice in their hearts towards gay people; it’s not about hate at all, it’s about… well, the arguments keep shifting. There seems to be a growing recognition that just citing the Bible doesn’t work anymore since we remembered that we don’t make our laws based on what some people believe about the Bible. And there is solid Biblical scholarship out there that the Bible doesn’t actually condemn loving adult gay relationships.

Sue Fulton, left, and Penelope Gnesin exchange wedding vows at West Point's Cadet Chapel in December. (Photo: Jeff Sheng, OutServe-SLDN via AP)

Sue Fulton, left, and Penelope Gnesin exchange wedding vows at West Point’s Cadet Chapel in December.
(Photo: Jeff Sheng, OutServe-SLDN via AP)

And supporting “traditional marriage” trips over the historic notions of marriage that included polygamy, arranged marriages, and wives as property.

The idea that marriage is about procreation falls apart unless you are willing to deny marriage to the thousands of straight couples who can’t or don’t have kids. And if they’re so worried about kids, what about the thousands of kids being raised by same-sex couples who lack marriage rights?

The latest volley came from protesters at the Supreme Court, who carried signs saying “Kids deserve a mom and a dad” – and there’s video of a child asking the question, “Which of my parents would you take away, my mom or my dad?” What a horrible thing to suggest to a child. Marriage equality has no impact on children of straight parents. Perhaps the protesters would take children away from the same-sex parents who are raising them to give them to some random straight couple? Maybe one of those children could have asked the question, “Which of my Moms would you take away?”

Yesterday’s op-ed pushed a bizarre new argument, suggesting that a marriage that didn’t include a woman was somehow sexist, like Augusta National excluding women. Uh, really? So a marriage of two white people is, by extension, racist?

Face it. The only real argument is that the idea of giving gays and lesbians the right to marry makes some people uncomfortable. And that we haven’t done it before, so why change now? The rest is irrational rationalization – logic that falls apart when you poke at it.

So finally, what about the hesitation to make a change? Why not, as some Justices seem to suggest, wait a few more years (or decades) and see how this plays out? Because we HAVE waited. Same-sex marriage didn’t start in 2000 when it was legalized in Denmark, it started the first time a gay or lesbian couple took each other’s hand, looked each other in the eye, and made a lifetime commitment to have and to hold. And there are people who shouldn’t have to wait any more.

I married Penny at West Point, not just because I am an Academy graduate and Army veteran, but also because our home state of New Jersey doesn’t have marriage equality yet. Penny is a breast cancer survivor, dealing with the M.S. that has taken her ability to walk. How long should I wait?

Marine Captain Matthew Phelps is being transferred to Japan in a few weeks, and the Marine Corps, as much as they’d like to treat him like other Marines, can’t send his husband with him. Army Major Casey Moes, a decorated combat vet, paid for her wife to come with her to her assignment in Hawaii – now they are paying exorbitant fees out of pocket for Laurie Ann’s unexpected medical problems. How do we tell these service members to wait, that even though the majority of Americans want them treated fairly, we should wait for the hold-outs?

My friend, Army Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan, of the New Hampshire National Guard, tried to live long enough for her wife Karen to get the military benefits that would help her raise their daughter Casey Elena. She didn’t make it. We buried her in February.

We wept as the Honor Guard carefully folded the American flag that covered Charlie’s coffin; the sergeant takes a moment to touch the flag to the coffin, just a moment, before he presents that flag to the general with a slow ceremonial salute. The general then gently knelt and said a few hushed, urgent words of comfort to Charlie’s wife, Karen, before he stood and rendered his own somber salute.

The New Hampshire National Guard knows marriage when they see it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brenda S. “Sue” Fulton is a founding Board member of OutServe and previously served as Communications Director for the organization. She is also Executive Director of Knights Out, an organization of LGBT West Point graduates and allies. Fulton graduated West Point in 1980, and left the military as a Captain after company command in Germany. Fulton has worked in the private sector since then and is currently employed at Pfizer. In July 2011, President Obama appointed her to the U.S. Military Academy Board of Visitors. She currently lives in Asbury Park, New Jersey, with her longtime partner, Penny Gnesin.