“guest bloggers.” Due to the long weekend, we’re starting the week
off early with a powerful posting by John Montesdeoca.
It’s a strange coincidence that I had to serve jury duty on
Valentine’s Day. As I was sitting through the jury selection
process, listening to people try to weasel their way out of their
civic duty, I kept having this nagging annoyance of unspecified
origin. I had never served on a jury before, and I was sort of
excited to participate in the process despite the bad timing for me
to be away from work. But something was upsetting me, and I
couldn’t figure out what until the eighth or ninth potential juror
gave background information about her spouse and children.
It became apparent that I was the only partnered gay person in the
jury pool. I’m in a courtroom, looking at the American flag, a
judge, a court reporter, attorneys, a defendant, the whole justice
system in process, and I’m the only person in the room who cannot
legally marry my partner because of our federal laws.
Although we haven’t made a formal commitment yet, Zac and I
consider each other as family. The time for a ceremony will come at
some point after Zac finishes graduate school, and when we figure
out where we will call home. The reality before us is that we can’t
settle down wherever we please. We are both working very hard to
make a good life for each other, and thus we want our union to be
met with the same legal privileges, protections and benefits
extended to heterosexual couples.
It’s not a matter of “we want what they have” It’s a matter of
As a good citizen, I showed up for jury duty, and as it turns out,
I will be a juror for a trial. However, I’m doing my civic duty for
this country even though my country treats my relationship with Zac
as separate and unequal to heterosexual relationships.
Zac dedicates much of his time to his work. He could easily be
doing something else with his life and enjoying his youth instead
of enduring a grueling Ph.D. program at Berkeley. However, he’s an
incredibly smart and talented man, and he’s putting everything he
has right now into what will be a rewarding career in the
I, on the other hand, work so much to save money for my dream of
owning a business that when I left the jury assembly room to enjoy
my free day from the office, I had no idea what to do because I
hardly have any spare time anymore.
All that Zac and I work for, and all that we share as we build a
life together, means nothing really in the eyes of the law because
we are not
a union of one man and one woman. If something were to happen
to either one of us, we would be denied hospital visitation rights
or family leave from work. When the time comes to deal with the
issue of inheritance, we’d find that one of us would have to pay
significant estate taxes, unlike married couples. There would also
be up to 70% taxes and penalties on inherited retirement savings.
We wouldn’t even be entitled to Social Security or pension plan
If my tone sounds a bit angry, it’s because I am. I cannot
comprehend how LGBT couples are denied the right to marry when
Section 1 of the 14th Amendment of our Constitution expressly
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject
to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and
of the state wherein they reside. 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.”
We don’t want to be restricted to the
few states that allow civil unions, or to head to Massachusetts
by default because that’s where we can get married. When Zac
finishes school, he’ll get job offers that could end up relocating
us anywhere. It’s not fair that Zac would have to turn down an
amazing job just because we couldn’t have same-sex union
protections in that state.
It’s not fair that we can’t even settle down near our respective
families because as of now, New York and Michigan have no same-sex
Civil unions and Massachusetts may be the best we have right now,
but how are they not
separate and unequal? Zac and I can only move to a handful of
states in this country, and this is what we call freedom! This is
“equal protection of the laws”?
It was a beautiful Valentine’s Day that Zac and I had together
nonetheless. I looked at him from across the dinner table and felt
like the richest and happiest man in the world. In no way could I
understand how our love could not be worthy of the title of
marriage. I’d give up my life to protect this man from harm.
Married people can make sure all they have worked for provides for
the one they leave behind. With our federal laws, I can’t easily do
that for Zac, nor can most LGBT couples. This is the truth I have
to swallow and leave out of mind when I go back to serve on jury
duty. I get to deliver justice to others when there’s none for me.