Sunday, February 26, 2012

Right to Love - Gay Marriage in North Carolina

A heart-broken woman stands quietly in the ICU. Her trembling hand wipes away the tears she’s so desperately trying to hide. She’s attempting to put on a brave face for her love, but they both know that the end is drawing near. They’ve been dedicated to each other for so long that she can’t even imagine what life will be like without her soul mate. She’s never loved anyone else. They were each other’s first love, first kiss and neither one of them have ever sought comfort in the arms of any other. A lifetime of commitment and friendship are about to fade away like a whisper. They’ve traveled the world together, raised a family together, and encouraged each other to achieve greatness, all the while, side by side, hand in hand. Out of all the people in the world, their hearts found each other. She’s the greatest love of her life. Yet, because of the decision by congress, they will never be married.

Across the hallway, surrounded by doctors, a young wife named Rebecka dies. Catastrophically, her husband had beaten and strangled her in a fit of rage. Her life was extinguished by the hands of the man that vowed to protect her. Three years ago, by the State of NC, they had been legally bound as husband and wife in the “sanctity of marriage.” One that was granted to one man and one woman.

Marriage recognized by the government is a privilege not shared equally by all citizens in North Carolina. As a child, no one thinks that they won’t be able to marry when they grow up. Every little girl dreams of the day she’ll marry her one, true love. Yet, this state, like many in our nation, uses a policy of marital discrimination. This country has a terrible past in “separate, but equal.” In some states Civil Unions are performed, but Gay and lesbian couples are not allowed to “legally” marry. In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act. Also known as DOMA, it “is a federal law designed to give states the right to refuse recognition of a same-sex marriage approved by another state. It also defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman for the purposes of federal law.”(Manning, Jason)

Ironically, The 14th Amendment of the Constitution promises that “...No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” (U.S Constitution).

Even convicted felons on death row have the right to marriage. However, committed same-sex couples are not awarded certain life liberties. Because they are not considered “married” for the purposes of federal law, same-sex families are denied equal benefits and protections granted to heterosexual families. There are 1,138 of these reserved for the legal commitment between one man and one woman.

Even same-sex couples who have been together for 50 years, are not entitled to: Social Security benefits, FMLA, COBRA, pensions, home protection, immigration, nursing home rights, taxation and employee benefits. These loving families encounter inequitable treatment for their children. “Many parents want the right to marriage because it would offer a vital safety net and guarantees protections that unmarried parents cannot provide.” Often couples are not allowed to have a say in medical procedures and are not considered “family” under hospital rules. There have been instances when the surviving member of the couple has no say in funeral arrangements and has no claim to the home that they once shared together. Many companies are unable to conduct necessary business with the “unmarried” partner of the deceased.(

Many nations have stopped marriage discrimination. The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland and Argentina recognize same-sex marriage, with great success. (Fastenberg, Dan) Here, in this nation, seven states have begun granting marriage licenses to devoted gay and lesbian couples. The integration of more stable gay and lesbian families leads to the creation of a more cohesive community, and on a grander scale, establishes a stable society. This week, the Court of Appeals rejected Proposition 8 in California which previously banned same-sex marriage. Judge Stephen Reinhardt said, “California may not add to their state constitution a provision... to strip gay and lesbians of the right to use the official designation that the state and society give to committed relationships, thereby adversely affecting the status and dignity of the members of a disfavored class.”(

Recognizing same-sex partners as married spouses does not take away any rights, benefits or validation of marriages between one man and one woman. So why and who disfavors this “class”? Those who believe that marriage should strictly be defined as a union between a man and a woman, using procreation and Biblical morality as the reason. Those opposing same-sex marriage claim that allowing gay couples to commit to each other legally threatens the sacred institution of marriage. They state that granting these constitutional rights to same-sex couples, would harm the nation and encourage bestiality, and polygamy. Those who oppose gay marriage also fear for the safety and well being of future generations.

“...People who are gay or lesbian were born, as all humans are , with the capacity to love, and the need to be loved.”(Sullivan, Andrew) As long as something is not interfering with the rights of a particular group, why should it be the business of anyone else? Andrew Sullivan, a writer for Newsweek Magazine, explained regarding the marriage to his husband in a legalized state, “When we finally got married...I did not hear the civilization crumble.” (Sullivan, Andrew) True love is certainly a sacred treasure. To be denied the right to express that level of love and devotion while others are granted the same right is unjust.

The woman in ICU is barely hanging on. She cannot go in peace. She’s scared to let go and leave her family, knowing that they are vulnerable to mistreatment by the system. She’s regretting the fact that they did not get married in a legalized state. They both kept dreaming of that joyous day, when the people of the nation would do what’s right and make sure that all of their citizens were treated equally. Together they dreamt of the day when they were no longer treated as second class citizens. For years they had gorgeous dresses in the closet set aside for that moment when society stopped trying to shame their love. Because people are afraid of change, afraid of “other”, this dream would never come true. They both now realize that it’s too late. Just as the broken-hearted woman bends down to kiss her love on the cheek, she feels the warmth of her last breath. Two hearts have now stopped beating. The hospital staff moves in and tells her, “Excuse me ma'am, you have no business here.”

Monday, February 20, 2012

Best Bar in Greensboro, "Take 2" - Old Town Draught House

Best Bar in Greensboro?
I've been quite fond of MCoul's for sometime. Their Euroesque public house, themed of Ireland, and selling Guinnesses from the tap, in full British pint glasses, made me an instant fan. Indeed it still is the only place I know I can get real fish and chips in Greensboro. That said, I've become quite fond of the Old Town Draught House on Spring Garden Street.

MCoul's has a friendly atmosphere, and an awesome wait-staff unlike any I've ever met,  but the downtown location and uppity garden area for snooty city-elite diners often attracts members of the upper class. You know the type. They wear big sunglasses, carry handbags the size of a Smart-Cars, and take their friends to McCouls, because they want to show how diverse and influenced Greensboro is. Sure there's those of us upstairs cowering in the corner, half passed out with beer all over our Wal-Mart uniforms too, but it's generally because we're too darn embarrassed to walk out past our bosses on the front patio.

Then there's the Old Town Draught House, literally on the campus of UNCG. It's small, it's quaint, it's like the bar in Cheers but shrunken down to the typical size of a corner-side English pub. It's also the only bar in town that has "that feel", of authenticity. You will bump into people, you will start up a chat, and you will feel like you're in an actual pub with actual real, normal people just trying their best to have fun.

I of course must disclose that I am a student, and may frequent Old Town Draught House more than I should after an inordinately difficult French quiz, but, I really, really, like this bar. This was despite, Friday's visit, that found me face to face with a single bartender who seemed to short-change us on our full pints of Guinness. She was nice, and it could have been a "mistake", but none-the-less, the pub could use another bar-tender.

The food is awesome. Order the cheese fries, (no really, order them) and you get a foot-by-foot arc of seasoned fries covered in cheese and bacon and a side of ranch. If you know me, you know I love fries and ranch. I heart you OTDH! Their salsa is fresh and spicy, and their three onion and mushroom burger rivals any I've had at most finer restaurants.

The truth is I love MCouls and Old Town Draught in different ways. Both are amazing and fun, but if I don't want the hassle of worrying about what I'm going to wear to the bar, or just want to be in the presence of a non-judgemental college crowd, and drunkard faculty, then there's only one place where everyone knows your name.