Christopher has been sidelined with a nasty case of stomach flu the past few days. Not "The Flu," mind you, just average, run-of-the-mill aches and chills and stomach ick.
When his fever broke yesterday morning, we figured we were in the clear, so I left him home to sleep all day and headed for work. But when I got home last night, he was still exhausted (after sleeping most of the day), and just not feeling as much better as we'd hoped. He said he'd go to Urgent Care in the morning if he wasn't feeling better. I, however, decided that an evening trip to Urgent Care was in order. And since he was feeling weak, he didn't protest for long.
So, there we were waiting at Urgent Care and watching the families and couples come in. And there was never any hesitation for the staff to speak to either the husband or wife. There was an assumption that they could both speak on behalf of what was going on, and that they'd both be going back to the exam rooms.
And, when Christopher got called to go into the triage room, and then into the exam room, I went along. I didn't think anything about it. I just figured it was the right thing to do. And the nurses - and the doctor - didn't really bat an eye. When I answered questions on Christopher's behalf it was fine.
But here's the thing: They didn't have to.
According to the law - and various medical ethics kinds of things - they didn't have to let me in. I'm not a blood relative. I'm not a spouse. Even though we've been together for more than seven years, I'm not - technically - family. So, legally, they could have kept me out.
And, sitting there with Christopher, I couldn't think of anywhere else I would have wanted to be. But I also had the fleeting thought that I could be kicked out at any minute. Which, frankly, I ignored last night.
Today, however, when I had some time to think about it all, I realized that that fleeting thought scares the hell out of me. What if they had told me to leave? That I wasn't able to be there for Christopher - or vice-versa? What could I have done?
When people ask me why I think gay marriage is so important, sometimes it's hard for me to put it into words. I mean... Christopher and I aren't champing at the bit to walk down the aisle, even though we're committed to each other for the long run. And I don't know enough about tax laws to know how much we're losing each year because we can't file jointly.
But I don't want anyone telling me that just because we're not a heterosexual couple that we have to say good-bye at the door to the hospital, right when we need each other the most. I don't want to be told, when I've been rushed to the hospital on my deathbed, that I can't see the person I love because some idiot decided we don't deserve equal (visitation) rights under the law.
Luckily, a lot of healthcare institutions are aware that the world is changing and that families come in all different shapes and sizes. Now if only all of those "I deserve more rights than you do" right-wing politicians and religious fanatics would realize that, too. (Preferably before the upcoming elections...)