FDL Movie Night: “for my wife…”
[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the film and topic. Please take other conversations to a previous thread.]
Teddy Partridge, Host:
This documentary film is about tragedy, insult, and empowerment. The tragedy comes at the beginning — the horrific drowning of Kate Fleming, witnessed by her wife Charlene Strong, in a flash flood in their home. The insult comes right on tragedy’s heels as Charlene is kept from her wife’s last moments in the hospital and is ignored by the funeral planner. Charlene’s relationship with Kate is denied over and over– first by her exclusion from the ambulance rushing Kate to the ER, then by a hospital’s cold and impersonal bureaucratic process, and a finally during a funeral director’s bigotry-based ignorance of the family bond between this woman and her dead wife.
Many of us might step away from these events shattered and grieving, unable to engage. Not Charlene Strong, who — within six weeks — testified before the Washington Legislature about how same-sex partners’ treatment is different, especially in extremis. And exactly how many actors in the drama of Kate’s last moments alive put their bigoted or ignorant imprint on Charlene’s experience.
Watching her testify in the film was amazing; I cannot imagine suffering her loss and maintaining my composure the way she did while speaking publicly about it, especially so soon afterwards. We literally watch Activist Charlene born from the ashes of her sorrow and loss.
This movie is a wake-up call in the face of all the middle-ground arguments that civil unions or domestic partnerships are enough for anyone. Charlene talks about how the word “marriage” — saying “she’s my wife” — is something universally understood in our culture, and has been for centuries. No new phraseology or legal protections that are ‘all but marriage in name’ come close. While her fight in Washington achieved domestic partnership, Charlene and her allies are clear: nothing will suffice, finally, but full equality.
Charlene journeys to become an engaged and successful activist: she shares her story with audiences across the country, showing Americans why marriage matters, testifying about her tragic loss and her insult. She tells her story to President Obama, as it becomes the basis for his new regulations over hospital visitation by same-sex partners. This documentary detailing Charlene’s path is an important part of the marriage equality conversation in America. But it shows us how activism is born in the human soul, and shows us the results of that activism: often elusive, but plainly laid out here.
It’s important, inspiring, and worthwhile. It advances the marriage equality debate, and it illustrates why and how activism develops and matters.
I’m excited that not only will the movie’s director, David Rothmiller, join us to discuss his powerful work, but we will also be joined by the subject of the documentary: Kate Fleming’s widow, Charlene Strong. Please join me in welcoming them both to FDL Movie Night.