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In the 1,000th issue of The Advocate, cover date January 15, 2008, there was an excellent first person essay from Andrew Solomon called “A Transcontinental Affair.” Here he talked about traveling to England with his partner, John Habich, so they could pledge “our troth” in the summer of 2006. Andrew’s dual citizenship in the U.S. and Great Britain allowed him to bring his partner of 5 years to that country and become legal partners under the Civil Partnership Act, which became law in late 2005.

The Civil Partnership Act grants same-sex couples all the rights associated with marriage, with two exceptions: it cannot legally be called “marriage” and it cannot be conferred by a member of the clergy. As he says in the essay, “These provisos not withstanding, everyone calls it marriage, and many people annex a religious blessing to the registrar’s official proclamation.”

The story of their preparation for and traveling to England for the ceremony is quite moving and I encourage everyone to follow the link above and read the story for themselves. Unfortunately, the couple’s feeling on coming back to this country was less than stellar. “Our wedding was cause for pageantry and celebration, but tinged with sorrow that our new legal rights would mean nothing in our native land.”

As we careen towards electing a new President, things like this weigh on my mind. We need leaders in all levels of government to stand up for what’s right. If the leaders in the era of civil rights had simply gone the way the extreme left wanted back then, we’d still be in segregation today. Where are today’s Lyndon Johnsons who would stand up and say that discrimination against GLBT U.S. citizens is wrong? It’s appalling that “the land of the free” is behind countries like Canada, Belgium, Netherlands, South Africa, Spain and the majority of the European Union. It’s not necessarily called marriage in some of these countries, but there are laws that cover the vast majority of the rights accorded by marriage.

I don’t even care of it’s called “marriage” here. What matters is that, as Will and I age, we do need protections that we shouldn’t have to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees to obtain. We should be able to make medical decisions for each other. We should have rights to tax-free inheritance. There are hundreds of rights granted by marriage in the U.S. and even though we’ve been together for 12 years, we are covered by none of them.

As you go to the polls for your state primary or caucus (and again in November for the general election), please give careful consideration to the type of person you’re putting into office. Are they a leader who makes the right choices for our country and for all the citizens… or are they simply going to go the way of the people who put the most money into their coffers? Do you want another four years (or eight years) of a government run by an extremist faction of the citizenship (and I’m not saying we’d be better off if it was the far left in control)? Let’s look for a leader out to do the right thing.

To make sure that happens, everyone has to get out there and cast a vote. If we don’t all exercise our voices in the election, it’s as good as saying we don’t care about what happens here.

And who is this leader out to do right? I’m not sure myself. The candidates on all sides seem to be pandering to their money people rather than truly addressing issues that affect the vast middle class of this country. It’s on all of us to sort out the rhetoric and be informed voters. Good luck to us all on that one.