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NC Pride and features on gay legal issues in the Independent Weekly

This weekend is NCPride, which is held in the Triangle. The main festivities, including the parade, are held in Durham starting tomorrow. We hold our Pride later in the year to avoid the oppressively hot weather in late June, the month when most celebrations are held. The events list is here. I’ll be there marching with my former neighbors of Old West Durham, the host neighborhood of the parade.

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The Independent Weekly, the area’s progressive paper, has a couple of great feature articles on gay issues to dovetail with the upcoming events.

One is a piece, Family Values, by Kristin Howard, a mental health clinician and artist in Durham, on being married to a gay man. She makes the case that marriage equality would prevent so many gays and lesbians from trying to “fix” themselves by throwing themselves into marriages in the mistaken belief that their orientation will change.

In her case, both she and her husband came from a conservative Christian community and were raised to believe gays were “abominations before God.”

Ten years into the marriage, it was revealed to this bride, who was still very much in love with her husband (though he was often distant and depressed) that he had a “terrible secret.” He was gay. He had fought that fact all of his life. When he met me, he knew that he was gay, but he thought he could change–that God would heal him. And the alternative–coming out as a gay man–could get him killed. Certainly it would mean he would be shunned by his congregation, his friends and possibly his family.

…In many of these situations, the ministers who married the couples knew that one of them was gay (or in their words, struggled with same-sex attraction), and they encouraged them to marry anyway, even though the straight spouse knew nothing. To “save” the homosexual from hellfire and damnation … they never gave a thought to the straight spouse who could, and eventually would, be destroyed by it.

These gay people who married–some of them hoping that God would heal them or change them, some of them to simply have a “normal” life in a marriage with children and the picket fence, some of them to hide from persecution–had they been accepted for who they are, would probably never have married someone of the opposite sex.

Had they been allowed to marry a partner of the same sex and been accepted, they never would have made the choices that are now destroying their lives, the lives of their unsuspecting spouses, and in some cases the lives of their children. All because the only way they can be equal–and have the same rights as everybody else–is to pretend to be everybody else.

Go read the rest; she’s spot-on.

The other piece I was actually interviewed for (a few quotes made it in), Making it legal, covers legal protections that same-sex couples can avail themselves of until there’s marriage equality (or an amendment that makes it difficult to sustain even those measures).

Durham Attorney Sharon Thompson points out, “A heterosexual can spend $50 on a marriage license and all of the sudden hundreds and hundreds of laws apply.

“In order for a same-sex couple to create some of those same protections, it’s going to cost them. Wills for an average middle-class couple with some assets could run $1,000, $500 each for all those documents,” she says. “But then if you want a property agreement, that’s another $1,500. And then if you add on all the parent stuff, you add on several thousand dollars more. So you’re looking at $5,000-$10,000 just to create legal protections and a family.”

…”There are ways to cut that cost down,” Thompson adds. “Healthcare power of attorney, for one. You can go online to the secretary of state’s Web site (www.sosnc.com), or the medical society (www.ncmedsoc.org), and download healthcare power of attorney forms, and it’s free. And those are fine, because they’re North Carolina documents.”

John Boddie, a Raleigh native who currently practices law in Greensboro, has a few more suggestions.

“I like people to make sure that any significant property that they own is owned ‘in joint tenancy with right of survivorship.’ You can own any property that way–your house, your car, your bank account. It’s just a matter of using that magic language. And when I say ‘magic language,’ I mean that, because in North Carolina if you don’t use those precise words, then you don’t own your property jointly.

In the interview, it’s mentioned that we found Sharon Thompson‘s table at NCPride, her firm is well-known as one of the go-to attorneys for LGBT couples around here who want to protect their rights (to the extent that we can).

Kate and I established “joint tenancy with right of survivorship” for our property, and had wills and healthcare and other power of attorney documents drawn up. We didn’t spend anywhere near the figures quoted in this piece because we don’t have kids — that sends legal fees into the stratosphere, because there are so many legal bases to cover.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding