Sunday, August 15, 2010

He died a married man

Nestor Berchot had wanted to marry his partner Adrian Garcia, but like so many places it was illegal for gay couples to marry. But just recently Argentina legalized same-sex marriages. He and his partner were the first same-sex couple to marry in Mar del Plata.

Following the happy event friends and family of the couple gathered for a reception and celebration, where Nestor collapsed, suffering from high blood pressure. Taken to the hospital he died a few hours latter.

While no doubt Nestor, like all of us, has contemplated his own death, there was one thing he may never have considered before—that he would die while married to the love of his life. I hope his partner takes some comfort in that. It is the sort of comforting fact that straight couples take for granted, many without ever thinking what it means to those denied that option.

Similarly I think of Phyllis Lyons, who I met when I took some courses that the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, where she worked. It was Phyllis who had to approve my application to take the courses and we sat in her office chatting about various things. Phyllis was a brave, early pioneer of the fight for gay equality. She and her partner Del Martin met in 1950. When gay marriage was legalized in San Francisco the two were the first couple to wed in San Francisco on June 16, 2008, more than half a century after they began their life together -- they were finally able to make it "legit." Only a few weeks later, on August 27 Dell died at the age of 83.

So many people just take it for granted that they will marry and one die they will depart this life after spending their life as the married partner of the person they love. Imagine thinking you would never have that right. Imagine that you watched all those around you being allowed that choice, but it was denied you.

For Del and Phyllis, they shared a few short weeks, out of more than half a century of love, together as a married couple. But they had it. Nester Berchot only enjoyed marriage for a few short hours before his life ended. But he was married. Yet the cemeteries are filled with loving gay men and lesbians who died never allowed to marry the person they love. That is a tragedy we can never undo, but it is one we can prevent from happening ever again.