Sunday, April 02, 2006

Imagine there's no Husband...

Life-partners are the single most important support a human being has when going through a crisis, big or small. Getting annoyed, getting fired, getting tested, getting diagnosed, getting sick; losing your temper, losing your wallet, losing a sense, losing your mind... from the daily stresses of living, through family and health crises, to unthinkable strains of extraordinary circumstances, a spouse is both the one most affected and the one whose strength and support will make the difference to the person at the centre of the crisis - sometimes between survival and not.

Consider, then, Dan Hunt. The life-partner of Jim Loney, the Canadian Christian Peacemaker who was kidnapped in Iraq, Dan had to simply... disappear, immediately, upon news of Jim's capture, lest their sexual orientation put Jim's life in even greater peril than the knife's edge it was already on. At the point of the worst fear and pain of his life, he had to become invisible to the public. The very last thing he could possibly do was to plead for his partner's life, to try to give Jim a human face to his captors, to try to humanize him to the Iraqi populace and to the terrorists who held him.

Surely the only comfort to him in those black days was the fact that Jim's family supported him, and his and Jim's relationship, unconditionally; Jim Loney's brother last week confirmed that Dan Hunt had been consulted on every decision and every detail, every step of the way. Surely one of the very few comforts Jim Loney had in those days was knowing that back in Sault Ste. Marie, his family and his friends were doing whatever they could to care for his spouse.

At the press conference Jim Loney held on his return, he was surrounded by the entirety of his loving family - his parents, his siblings, and his partner.

When Svend Robinson gave a tearful press conference to resign his seat in parliament, confessing that he had stolen an expensive ring at a trade show, his long-time partner Max Riveron stood beside him in the glare of the press lights and intrusive questions. Even Margaret Wente, the conservative and usually-churlish Globe and Mail columnist, wrote movingly of Max's attendance at the press conference, and how wrong it would have been had Svend had to go through the experience without the man he loves by his side due to their sexual orientation.

All of us, in ways big or small, know the impact of having that support of a genuinely "significant other" at a time of crisis. Imagine erasing Husband from this blog, from every post, every page, every photograph and every anecdote. Imagine making him invisible, the way Dan Hunt had to be invisible.

This is what we deny gay men and lesbians when we deny them the right to full marriage and full social acceptance - the right to offer each other sanctioned and recognized support, to fully 'be there' for each other in crisis large and small. This is why full equal marriage rights - not "marriage lite", not civil unions - matter.



Blogger Carl said...

Actually I'm in favor of the State not recognizing marriage at all, except as a form of contract (which would then by its nature be something any two people could agree to).

Of course, as a never-married person I expect you'll discount my opinion.

6:09 a.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

On the contrary! Not only do I think that's a perfectly valid opinion, I tend to agree with it. I think the fact that we are still mixing up the religious and civil aspects of marriage are part of the reason for the current gay-marriage mess. Civil society more and more recognizes gay relationships; most religions do not, and thereby hangs the conflict.

I generally agree with those who say that the state should get out of the business of marriage altogether. Everyone - gay or straight - could have their civil union, recognized by the state for tax and legal purposes; and then be "married" in the manner of their choice - religious or not.

This would, however, be perceived as heterosexual couples "losing" their "right" to marriage as we now know it, and churches losing an enormous amount of power - so while it would be a great thing if it happened, I am not holding my breath.

And as a never-married person, your perspective of marriage is an entirely valid one - merely one from the outside looking in, in this particular case. It's often the outside observer who sees most clearly.


9:48 a.m.  
Blogger Carl said...

And once more, I underestimate Ronnie.

12:49 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a friend of Jim and Dan, I want to say thanks for your blog. It's not entirely correct to assume that Jim's family in the Sault were the main ones supporting Dan during the dark months of Jim's disappearance in Iraq, however. Much of that support was provided by current and former residents of the Catholic Worker Community they cofounded in Toronto (along with another friend) about 15 years ago.
Much of the initial media-wrangling to keep their relationship out of the public eye, was also undertaken by current residents of the community, who knew immediately what that news could mean for Jim's fate, especially if picked up from Western media and recounted by AlJazeera. Current members of the community provided a buffer to protect Dan and Jim and Dan's housemates from having to talk to most of the media that swarmed the community nonstop at the time. Thanks for your concern for Dan and others who are forced into silence about the true nature of their relationships.

12:10 a.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Anonymous, thank you for your kind words, and if you can, convey to James and Dan how much I admire them... I trust you also saw
this blog post
about them.

As someone who works for a non-profit community organization myself, I understand the depth of the relationships forged with co-workers working for a common cause. They really do become "family" in a near-literal sense of the term.

Your words reinforce how little those "on the outside" know of what is going on behind the scenes. The whole community James worked with is to be commended for keeping an "open secret" under wraps for James' sake. It must have taken tremendous effort inspired by tremendous concern for James.


9:50 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thank you so much for this post. It is so heartening to know that many heterosexuals are for gay marriage or at least 'equality'.
Times have changed but we still have a way to go.
Greetings from a gay Brit in San Francisco.

Meanderingtrevor/tea and cucumber sammiches

6:05 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dunno why my comment went all weird!

6:06 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Oh, your comment isn't weird at all. Well, only a bit weird, but that's a v. v. Good Thing on this weblog.

Welcome, relax, sit down, and can I refresh your tea with some luvley Canadian Tim Horton's steeped?

As someone from Newfoundland (English, once-removed), I know whereof I speak wiv a good cuppa.


11:52 p.m.  

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