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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



Proulx Views: Why the Silence?

This article shared 2989 times since Wed Mar 30, 2005
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As this is being written, a 41-year-old woman whose cerebral cortex has been liquefied for years remains the hostage of loving but deluded and misguided parents. By the time these lines are read, she will likely be resting in peace. Finally, after 15 years of escalating legal challenges, desperate machinations, and religious sanctimony.

Terri Schiavo has been repeatedly diagnosed by multiple doctors to be in a persistent vegetative state ( PVS ) , a condition originally identified by Glasgow researchers and long since accepted by the American Academy of Neurology ( AAN ) and the rest of the medical community. Her husband and other witnesses have testified under oath that Terri verbally had indicated ( on two separate occasions ) that if she were ever to find herself in such a state, her wish was that artificial respiration, hydration, and nutrition not be maintained.

Her parents have refuted this and insist that carrying out Terri's spoken advance directives amounts to murder. In spite of examinations and testimony by experts, they contend her condition will improve eventually. They are backed emotionally, tactically, and financially by the religious right, including Senate Majority Leader, Dr. Bill Frist. Talk about someone who should know better. But then he also said he thought it might be possible to transmit HIV/AIDS through tears. And he prefers abstinence pledges and prayer to condoms. So all is well in the land of voodoo medicine.

In an emergency session of Congress, 202 members of the House of Representatives ( 261 were present ) and the Senate approved the passage of a historically unprecedented law that has allowed the Schiavo case to be argued at the federal level. President Bush even curtailed his vacation to be able to sign the bill into law in the dead of night. Never mind that over the years more than a dozen Florida court rulings have dismissed the parents' claim.

But of what concern is all this to LGBT partners and families? To begin with, the issue is constantly being presented as a right to life/right to die dilemma. It is no such thing. The right to die already is a legally established one. This is clearly and indisputably a question of jurisdiction and authority. And this is where the case is relevant for LGBT couples.

Advance directives fall under state jurisdiction. Each state draws its own distinct forms for its residents to fill out voluntarily. Sound familiar? Marriage is also defined and administered by each individual state. Just like we saw the introduction of a Federal Marriage Amendment, we have just seen a federal bill being rushed and ratified on an aspect of American life that has never been the purview of the federal government. And all this interventionism from an administration whose neo-con elected officials and strategists are arch-defenders of states' rights.

The question of authority provides an even more vivid illustration of just how vital the issue is for LGBTs. It also reveals the perfidy of our elected leaders. For all their posturing, not one U.S. Senator—Republican or Democrat—voted against the new bill.

According to Florida law, in the absence of written evidence to the contrary, an incapacitated patient's automatic legal guardian, the person authorized to make medical and other decisions, is his/her spouse. Single people's de-facto guardians are their parents. Without the ability to marry, gay and lesbian partners cannot be considered next of kin and so named legal guardian for each other. In some extreme cases where other family members do not acknowledge the same-sex relationship, they are even denied hospital visitation rights.

So let's suppose a situation, much like the Schiavos' current predicament, where a same-sex couple has been together for several years when an accident occurs that puts one of them in PVS. Without documented advance directives, in most states, a partner facing family opposition would have no authority at all to execute the unconscious person's wishes. The legal standing and religious hubris to keep the injured partner artificially alive would be completely insurmountable. 'Sorry Love, we're in charge and we know what's best,' would sum up the debate.

Now imagine this: what if it was the unmarried, same-sex partner who insisted that his/ her lover would have wanted to be kept alive by any and all means? What if it was the parents, in their role as legal guardians, who wanted their son or daughter to be allowed to die? Who would the religious right side with? How would conservatives, whose campaigns are subsidized by fundamentalist groups and their pro-life, anti-gay supporters, manage the moral values conundrum?

Sadly for Terri Schiavo, her case has all the sanctity-of-life interests aligned perfectly. It is just a matter of time before another case comes along that will pit those same interests against each other. Why are organizations like HRC, Lambda Legal, Freedom to Marry, and other activists in the LGBT community not pointing this out forcefully and publicly? Where is their voice in this most fundamental of social discussions?

For all their rhetoric about reaching out to straight allies, they seem content to remain on the sidelines and consider the current controversy other people's business.

But hey, don't touch SpongeBob!

Proulx is a reporter for Windy City Times.

This article shared 2989 times since Wed Mar 30, 2005
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