Friday, April 16, 2010

Human Rights Victory

Does one need to be a woman to be a feminist? Does one need to be African-American to be anti-racist? More to the point, does one need to be a member of any particular group to identify with and support that group? Obviously, the answer is no to all three questions, and so it is with my identifying as a straight ally.

I've long had positive relationships with gay and transgendered folks -- I've been in their homes, I've been in their bars, I've hugged and I've kissed gay and transgendered friends in the same way as I'd hug and kiss any other friend or family member.

Much of this stems from being raised to be inclusive and non-judgemental, to be accepting and tolerant of differences, because usually those differences are so minor they are inconsequential.

All that to say that over the years I've become a straight ally, attending gay pride rallies, attending rallies in support of gay marriage and civil unions, and engaging in dialogue with both straight and gay friends and family about what being a straight ally means in general and what we as straight allies can do specifically to help our gay friends and family members achieve social justice through equality.

And it's because of the personal relationships I've had with my gay friends that I am very personally affected by Obama's historic directive to hospitals receiving federal money to allow for the gay partner of gay patients to visit them.

For too long, loving partners of gay patients have been viewed "simply" as friends, and denied visitation rights for their partners who lay sick or dying in hospital beds, like Janice Langbehn, who was denied access by a social worker to be at her partner's bedside as she lay dying from a fatal brain aneurysm.

Obama's directive tells hospitals that those dark days of discrimination are now over. This is humane, this is just, this is inclusive, and it is long overdue. This is not a gay or straight issue, it is simply a human rights issue, and as such, it is a clear human rights victory. It was politically courageous of Obama, and it was a no-brainer.

It is also the mark of a civilised society, and a place we can not walk away from. There is no turning back. And there should be no turning back until the GLBT community has the same rights and privileges as the rest of society.

And it's not just a gay victory -- it's a victory for patient rights in general, because now, we the patients have the right to decide who visits us when we're in the hospital, not politicians or bigoted hospital workers or family members.

And more importantly, this allows patients to decide who can have medical power of attorney to make extremely difficult but important life-saving or end-of-life decisions. Libertarians SHOULD embrace this, because it is about personal choice and personal freedom, and gets the state and corporate interests out of a very personal and often decision-making process.

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