Tell Me Why I’m Treated as a Second-Class Citizen
March 12, 2012 by HRC staff
This guest post comes from Deb Guidry, Co-chair of HRC’s New Orleans Steering Committee:
I recently participated in an HRC Lobby Day, during which participants meet with Congressional representatives from their home state.
None of our congressional leaders from Louisiana took the time to personally meet with our delegation, although the staff with whom we met were all very welcoming and appeared interested in our issues. Still, one has to wonder what it will take to be able to tell our personal stories to the actual elected representatives who make the decisions that so deeply affect our lives? While I am sure that the staff members we met with will relay our stories, it won't be the same as my elected representative seeing the sadness and anxiety in my face when I talk about how my partner of 35 years could lose our home because she cannot collect my social security benefits if I die before she does. We rebuilt our home and our lives after Katrina because we believed in the city and state; now we ask that they believe in us. Make us count.
I wanted to tell my Member of Congress directly about my life and my partner. We have been together for 35 years. She was there when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and together we took care of her for 7 years. My aunt had a stroke; we took care of her together for several years. My older brother was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 57; she was the one with him when he died. I was there for her when she lost her father to complications from heart surgery after Katrina. She lost her job as a teacher after Katrina and I retired to take care of my brother. We faced these challengers as a couple. Some want me to call it a relationship, domestic partnership, or civil union, but to me, this is a marriage.
I am calling on our elected leaders to look at us in the face, hear our stories, explain why we do not matter; why we are second-class citizens even though we pay our taxes, work and donate to non-profit organizations, contribute to our communities, share the joys and sorrows of married life, and yes— we vote.
We must continue to call our Congressional representatives in the House and Senate, write letters and support our LGBT organizations by volunteering or giving financial assistance when we can. We must continue to educate our opponents, give thanks to our allies, and remain steadfast in the hope that one day, having achieved full equality, that we can all look back and say, “What was the big deal?” We can and will make this change together—young, old, gay, straight. We must have strength to face the defeats, courage to face the future and live our lives with hope and love for a better and more equal tomorrow.
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