Post Magazine: The Exiles

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Hosted by Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 19, 2005; 1:00 PM

Barbara Kenny and Tibby Middleton wanted to be certain they could stay together until death. Then Virginia's new law against same-sex marriage made that impossible. So they moved across the Potomac, fromFredericksburg to Frederick.

Michelle Boorstein, whose article about the lesbian couple appeared in yesterday's Washington Post Magazine , was  online  to field questions and comments.

Michelle Boorstein is a reporter in The Post's Fredericksburg bureau.

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Michelle Boorstein: Greetings and thanks to everyone who has taken time to write. I'll try to answer questions if I feel I can add anything productive, but there are also people who simply commented and I will try to get as many of those out there as I can....

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Harrisonburg, Va.: Comment: I am saddened to see this couple leave the state, but I am troubled they experienced the state's interest in the traditional family (married mother and father, children) as "hate." If medical records and public health statistics are accepted, the health risks and related costs that go along with nontraditional partnerships --lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered partnerships, some brief, others lifelong, are incalcuably high. The state has an interest on many fronts in seeing the norm remain one man and one woman living together, bearing children. This is the best route to a healthy society. Our laws should reflect and promote that interest.

Individual choices for lifestyles outside that norm should find some limited protections under the law. That is consistent with the right to pursue happiness we hold dear in this country. However, as I see it, the logical next step to Tibby and Barbara's story the attempt to make sure bisexuals are given (the same) legal status and economic rights. That is a nightmare, since, by definition, bisexuals must be free to live in a chainlink of relationships that extends indefinitely.

The pain this couple has taken to make their point is not something to argue, only mourn. Fredericksburg is in many ways a poorer community for their departure. Tibby's slammed fist saying, "I'm not a victim" is, as you note in the same paragraph, the tragic irony. Of course they are acting like victimes! Covering their story, while interesting reading, may cause other couples like them to take the same course. I suspect that many caring and openminded Virginians will not be swayed to change sound laws for the sake of expressions of individual choice, no matter how many contributions those persons make to their community. I'm also sorry some people are deported from the US, but that too is a legal necessity that promotes the long term interest of the state, and one I will vote to continue for the sake of the our country and indeed the world.

Michelle Boorstein: Your comment raises a few points. One is the point that it is in the interest of the government to promote "traditional" families -- one man, one woman, children. This assumes that heterosexual, lifelong monogomous, fertile couples are the only "natural" family. This assumes conclusive scientific data that doesn't exist proving that homosexual behavior is aberrant or can be changed. It also raises questions about why people are allowed to divorce, use birth control, move away from their families, and on and on.

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Springfield, Va.: This article saddened me greatly. I have gay friends and family, and I know in my heart that they deserve the same rights as the ones I take for granted as a hetereosexual. What can be done? Given our current political climate, the minute anyone takes a centrist or leftist approach to any issue, they're branded a liberal freak and the negotiation process shuts down. I'm not gay, I'm not a Republican or a Democrat, I just believe that two people who commit their lives to one another through love deserve the same rights as the contestants on "Meet Joe Bachelor" who make a mockery of theirs. Why isn't anyone trying to take away their rights to marriage?

Michelle Boorstein: I think Mrs. Phillips (from Concerned Women of America) tried to answer that point in my discussions with her. She would say that people concerned about "traditional" marriage also need to work to promote healthy relationships and to made divorce a last-out, not an easy option. This is based both on the desire to promote what they see as the "ideal" (heterosexual couple with kids) but also because many of them believe gays and lesbians are inherently more likely to be unfaithful and uncommitted.

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Washington, DC: Hi Michelle,

First of all, thank you so much for writing this article. I was so excited to see that it featured on the front cover of the Post Magazine. My girlfriend and I read it together and it brought us both to tears: the suffering that Barbara and Tibby endured while hiding their relationship; the injustice of the VA law; and most of all, their courage in allowing their story to be told.

My question: for two women who are uncomfortable with political marches and have only recently begun to reveal their relationship, why did they allow you to write such a personal article? (I am so glad they did!)

Michelle Boorstein: I first met Barbara and Tibby one year ago, when I first heard that they were leaving Fredericksburg. The first time I tried to speak to them, Tibby barely let me in the door. Then they agreed to talk, but not use their names. It went on like that, step by step. They said they decided that, at their age, and having nothing left in their closets, they had nothing to hide. They sometimes said: If not us, who?

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Herndon, Va.: You talked with Patricia Phillips. Does she really believe that Barbara and Tibby are "exceptions"? Did you get any sense that she had empathy for the precarious situation in which the law put Barbara and Tibby?

Michelle Boorstein: Proponents of the law take the position that people like Barbara and Tibby are not in any legal danger. They don't get into these other questions of paying twice for health care or right to adopt or whatever -- they are simply saying that documents like wills and medical directives are not inherently "marital" documents and can't be affected. However,

Michelle Boorstein: Proponents of the law take the position that people like Barbara and Tibby are not in any legal danger. They don't get into these other questions of paying twice for health care or right to adopt or whatever -- they are simply saying that documents like wills and medical directives are not inherently "marital" documents and can't be affected. However, most legal experts I spoke with agree that it's not clear what will happen until it plays out in court. They point to the fact that the law was cited earlier this year in a well-publicized case about two women who had entered into a civil union in Vermont and had a child. They split up and one returend to Virginia and went to court to sever the parental rights established under Vermont law. The Virginia judge said the new law here in Virginia clarifies that the other mother is not legally related to the child and has no right to her, even though their relationship was codified under state (vermont) law. They also point to how similar laws have been used around the country. Among those situations is in Michigan, where the attorney general said earlier this year that the new, anti-civil union law made it impossible for state-run agencies to offer health benefits to gay people's spouses. Another situation was in Ohio, where a judge ruled this month that the new anti civil union law there made it impossible to enforce domestic violence cases between unmarried heterosexual people. His point was that the new Ohio law made clear: unmarried people are not family and therefore aren't entitled to "domestic" protections. You can see it's all still playing out, and Barbara and Tibby didn't want to be the test case.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Since same sex marriage is illegal in both Maryland and Virginia, why is this couple better off in Maryland? Power of attorney documents, wills, and so on are valid in both states.

Michelle Boorstein: That's a good question. Their feeling - which is, course, based partially on legal advice and partially on gut feeling -- is that there is a difference: Maryland law has not gone as far as Virginia's in referencing contracts between same-sex couples. It isn't as broad. Some people who worry about Virginia's new law argue that it opens a door to judges who wish to discriminate, that it makes clear Virginia's policy is not to honor those relationships.

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Michelle Boorstein: I'm now going to send out some comments that are simply comments, not questions... just to get more voices out there...

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Sterling, Va.: The person from Harrisonburg misses the point about "individual lifestyle choices." Who we sleep with (straight or gay) or get into a relationship with is always a choice, no matter who we are. How we act is a choice to a lesser degree. Being homosexual or heterosexual is not a choice, and really thats where they miss the big point. I am a gay man. I could sleep with a woman for the rest of my life and even have kids. I would still die a gay man.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Alexandria, Va.: I'm a straight, married, father of two who read the story yesterday. My question - more to the readers of this chat - why do so many people care so much about restricting the rights of two people who obviously care about each and have committed their lives to each other?

Michelle Boorstein:

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Takoma Park, Md.: I read this article, but thought it did not discuss the real issues very well, nor present any factual information on the topic. Perhaps that was the point, merely to be a character study, but given the topic, I would expect a little more research and "journalism" involved to tell the reader something. For example, Maryland doesn't recognize same-sex marriages, either, so what benefits does this couple think they are getting that they didn't have in Virginia? Furthermore, the title of the article seemed inflamatory and is actually inaccurate. They were not forced to go anywhere, they merely chose to. Why they felt this was so important if they really liked their old neighborhood was not examined -- whether merely their feelings, or any actual basis. The only couple of instances given for their reasoning had to do with things that are not legal issues, but policy decisions of employers or companies, or private enterprises. Their big issues mentioned were being afraid of not allowed to visit one another in the hospital, and complaining about not getting discounts on car rentals or "having to pay two health care bills", whatever that means. As far as I know, there is no law that regulates who hospitals can choose to give visitation rights to. I would think it possible to choose a hospital that allows a patient to decide whom they want on a visitors list. As for discounts on car rentals--what's that all about, do they really rent cars so much that this is a big reason to move for them?

In sum, I prefer Maryland myself, and think it a more liberal environment, but if they liked their community otherwise, no good reasons were given for them to move. No reason or facts were given in the article as to whether their reasoning made any sense (ie, finding out from hospitals what their policies were and whether this had anything to do with the law).

My bottom line is that I am single, and am getting rather tired of the slant of these kind of articles, and the character's apparent bias themselves, which imply that being married is the only state worth having, and that being married is preferable to everything else, and that it is okay to discriminate against single people. I don't get discounts on car rentals, and I am certainly legally allowed to write a will with whomever I want as a recipient of my goods, and I don't get time off work because a friend of mine is sick (another thing that has nothing to do with the law, but an employer's choice). This couple themselves seems biased against single people. Do you realize how offensive these kind of arguments and articles are becoming that present being single as basically a fate worse than death?

Michelle Boorstein: I agree with you that some readers of the story might like to know: What are the laws? How do they work? What are my rights as a single person? And hopefully the Post tries to answer that in other stories. This piece was a straight narrative about them and their experience. And to try again to clarify about what the difference is between Virginia and Maryland.. it's true that Maryland has long defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. However, the legislature hasn't gone further in clarifying what public policies should stem from that. Virginia has. What exactly will happen now is not clear.

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Michelle Boorstein: Here are a few more comments..

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Louisville, Ky: To Harrisonburg:

What value does society derive from restriciting loving couples the chance at a legally recognized family? And if you are so concerned about this issue, please make the argument for stricter marriage licsensing laws throughout the country. Please argue that only educated couples with stable incomes without a history of drug abuse should be allowed to procreate. Please argue for the abolition of drive-through wedding chapels.

I fail to see what is so harmful in two loving men or women raising a child in a stable family. In fact, research has shown that gay couples are more likely to have more money, be more committed, and raise more open-minded children. Why, exactly, is that detrimental to society?

Michelle Boorstein:

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Millersville, Md.: I just moved to Maryland from Pennsylvania. In PA I did lose a lover to breast cancer. We had the living wills and power of attorney papers all set by a lawyer. How can a state official NOT recognized these documents. Lots of people who are NOT gay would be affected too. No one batted an eyelash with my partner and I.

Being a lesbian is one thing.... being there for another person is another thing that the law should not be able to touch and I don't see how it can. Yes I paid higher inheritance taxes but even that one can get around to minimize the blow.

Yes we need a constitutional amendment guarenteeing more rights for us and the Gay and lesbian community needs to make their own financial structures to insure our rights.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Fairfax, Va.: I have read the following commentary on Barbara and Tibby's insistence on "certainty" about the new law's impact before they would consider staying in Virginia, and I would like your comment:

"According to Michelle Boorstein's story, the people they consulted --legislators, lawyers, activists -- could not tell them "for sure" or give them "an ironclad guarantee" that medical directives and wills would not be adversely affected by the passage last year of HB 751 -Code 20-45.3] until the courts actually say so. They should have been told the rest of the story, which is that both legislators and property law and family law practitioners are virtually unanimous in their view that HB 751 was not aimed at contracts and other documents which unmarried people of any gender have traditionally been able to make in order to dispose of their property, nor to the newer device of an advance medical directive, often arranged between unmarried, even unrelated people. That was also the express view of the one family law expert, Edward Barnes, quoted in the story."

"It is one thing to emphasize, as a political matter, a bill or law's lack of crystal clarity and potential for mischief when fighting against its passage or for its repeal; it is quite another to order one's personal affairs based on those political arguments. Someone should have told those women, 'Look, until our courts and eventually the Supreme Court of Virginia actually construe the statute and apply it to the kind of documents which most concern you, no, I cannot tell you with absolute certainty what will happen. But I can tell you that the chances of this statute's being held to invalidate your will or advance medical directive are about as close to zero as you can get without an express court ruling to that effect. If some disgruntled family members want to challenge your document because they don't approve of your lesbian relationship, believe me, they can find dozens of lawyer who will do that for them, based on a claim that you were mentally incompetent when you signed your will, or that you acted under duress, or something. If that's the family situation, you'll have litigation all right, with or without Code 20-45.3, but the chances that a judge will invalidate your will, or deed, or power of attorney, or advance medical directive, or your joint bank account, simply because HB 751 became law, are probably less than the chance that you'll be struck by lightning when you leave my office.'"

Michelle Boorstein: I think many people who are worried about this law are worried on a few levels... 1) What message does it send? What does its broad wording say to same-sex couples? 2) Why would I want to be the test case? 3) What about people who can't afford to go to a lawyer and get these documents created (most people, gay or straight haven't had medical directives or wills written) 4) what if the documents aren't properly done and can be challenged?

People who worry about the impact of this law note the cases I have cited -- with the Vermont couple, with the Michigan benefits, with the Ohio domestic violence law -- to say: We don't know how this will shake out and we don't want to be the test case. That said, I would assume vast majority of gay people in Virginia are staying put and are having faith that their documents will be honored.

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Michelle Boorstein: more comments....

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Washington, DC: For those who keep asking "why Maryland versus

Virginia?": there is a big difference in the two, and the

article, I thought, made it pretty clear. It's that even the

PRIVATE contractural arrangments made between two

people of the same-sex -- powers of attorney, wills,

medical directives -- are of dubious legality in the state of

Virginia. It is the only state in the country with such a

draconian law. My partner and I live in DC. Every time we

cross the Potomac we have to wonder: if we get in a car

accident, will the hospital respect our legal contracts

giving each other decision-making power?

We try to avoid Virginia for that reason, even for breif

trips. I can't imagine a same-sex couple voluntarily living

there. And, there's also the small issue of choosing to live

in, and pay taxes to, a state which takes every opportunity

to communicate it's hatred of you and your family.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Los Angeles, Calif.: I would like to know why Ms. Phillips believes that the purpose of marriage is to facilitate raising children? If that's the only reason two people chose to marry, then the State of Virginia should have denied a marriage licence to my 71 year old father and his 70 year old bride. Ms. Phillips needs to come out of her affluent McLean cocoon and learn about the world.David

Michelle Boorstein:

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Maryland: Maryland has several laws under consideration (some vetoed by the Governor) which provide greater protections to gays. I agree that it is a better environment for gays.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Alexandria, Va: You may be a "reporter" but you hardly seem objective. Out of about ten pages, you gave barely half a page to the conservative side. The rest were filled with fawning words and pictures for your heroines, "exiles ... chased across the Potomac" by heartless Virginia lawmakers. Even when one of the lesbians abandoned her husband and kids in Utah, it was glossed over as a somehow unavoidable decision.

To legalize gay marriage -- enshrining a rare, physically unnatural act -- is to redefine a vital institution into superficial nothingness. As scholar Stanley Kurtz pointed out in the National Review, marriage in general collapsed after gay unions were recognized in Scandinavia. Male-female cohabitation skyrocketed (not good for their kids). If two guys down the street can dance in and out of "marriage", shacked-up couples see no need for a silly piece of paper. And so goes civilization.

What is next on your liberal agenda? A tender tale of a farmer and his four devoted wives? A harried family man finds happiness in cocaine? Or in the eight year old boy next door? His horse? What will those intolerant Virginians think of that?

Michelle Boorstein:

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Clifton, Va.: How stupid is the couple you profiled? What state did they think they lived in MA? Come on they live in VA where rabid conservative homophobes like Del Marshall want to save themselves from the possibility that they will get lonely one night and end up in bed with someone of the same sex. Its not like this was not predictable in VA! VA didn't all of sudden become a red state after being blue for the last 3 centuries. Come on VA wouldn't allow interracial marriage back 40 years ago and oral sex between a married hetero couple is still a felony as is sexual intercourse in anythin besides the missionary position. The WP wasted too many trees publishing a story about a bunch of knuckleheads.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Richmond, Va.: Hello. And thank you for taking our questions.

First, when you talk about marriage are you seeking civil or religious recognition?

Second, can't the same domestic protections that marriage gives be gained through simple legal contracts?

Michelle Boorstein: Barbara and Tibby never had any interest in getting married. I think that was partially because they focused on the religious aspect and partially because I think a part of them didn't see themselves -- until recently -- as deserving of legal protections, responsibilities and privileges. It was only because of Barbara's aneurysm that they looked as hard as they did at the new law. They went to attorneys in Virginia and Maryland to see if they would be protected under the new law and were told: We don't know. Some attorneys say that emphatically, others less so. But they felt they couldn't take that chance.

And as for whether it's possible to gain the protections of marriage through legal contracts -- what you can get as a partner or a parent very much varies depending on what state you live in. But there are dozens or hundreds of aspects of marriage that have nothing to do with legal contracts, such as the federal rights to share a nursing home room (under Medicare) or the right of heterosexual federal employees to get discounted insurance for their spouses.

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Michelle Boorstein: more comments...

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Houston, Tex.: I have a question for the person complaining about your "liberal bias." What exactly is the conservative viewpoint on what will happen if same sex marriage is legal? No one ever says. There's rhetoric about "redefining marriage" (though the definition has steadily changed over the years - so which definition do they want? The one where women were property of their husbands? It's never been constant.) but nothing concrete. Would Virginia end up like Massachusetts, with one of the nation's lowest divorce rates?

They predict disaster but they don't say what that disaster will be... and in the countries and US state where it's legal, disaster has failed to materialize.

Michelle Boorstein:

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The Hague, The Netherlands: I would like to respond to earlier comment that "the logical next step to Tibby and Barbara's story the attempt to make sure bisexuals are given (the same) legal status and economic rights. That is a nightmare, since, by definition, bisexuals must be free to live in a chainlink of relationships that extends indefinitely."

This is simply not true. I am bisexual, and in a monogamous marriage. Monogamy is monogamy, no matter whom you are not sleeping with!

I believe that in 30 years, people who oppose same-sex marriage now will be as ashamed as present-day segregationists are or should be. It's a simple issue of fairness.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Farragut West, Washington, D.C.: I'm curious about your comment "This assumes that heterosexual, lifelong monogomous, fertile couples are the only "natural" family." Yes, heterosexual fertile couples are the ONLY natural family. Babies created in petrie dishes, babies carried by surrogates, babies creatd by donor eggs--that is completely unnatural. To contend, however, that untraditional loving families can raise happy, healthy children can function is a completely different assertion. But no, it's not as mother nature intended.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Oklahoma City, Okla.: I would also like to comment on the points made by Harrisonburg, Va. I'm afraid the 'statistics' that people in non-traditional relationships have higher health risks and relating it solely to the non-traditional relationship is somewhat flawed. This is more likely due to the facts that at least one of the 2 may not be able to get appropriate health care, due to such partners not being covered by complete health care in many places or companies. Also, just the stresses felt by people like Barb and Tibby are known to increase the risk for many diseases, not just heart disease. It is not the homosexual or bisexual lifestyle per se that is the risk. As I recall, more heterosexuals get AIDS/HIV these days than homosexuals, so even that has fallen out of the equation.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Raphine, Va.: Most Virginians are happy to see the homosexual element leave the state with their radical agenda. Let Vermont or Massacusetts take them in, since they seem so anxious to legalize unnatural behavior. Does this couple know that many of us believe the purpose of the law was to see them leave the state, exactly as they have done?

Michelle Boorstein: I know there are people who suspect what you say, but that contradicts what the law's authors say its purpose is. This was a comment Del. Dave Albo, a Northern Virginia legislator who co-sponsored the law, made to me about the motivation behind it:

"I love gay people. They're fantastic, lovable people and I want them to live in Virginia. But the law says two people of the same sex cannot get married."

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Michelle Boorstein: more comments.......

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Kitty Hawk, NC: Comment: With over 50 percent of the marriages today ending in divorce, it seems to me that heterosexuals need to be more concerned about hetersexual marriage than about same sex unions. If two people choose to commit to each other, then what could be wrong with that.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Reston, Va.: I thought your article raised interesting points, but probably didn't go far enough in explaining what the issues facing gay and lesbian couples are. Not only can you be barred from your loved one's bedside when he or she is ill or dying, but you are denied myriad benefits that accrue automatically to married partners. Your partner receives no Social Security based on your work history, and unless you work for a progressive organization, you have no shared benefits. This costs thousands of dollars every year for health insurance, car insurance, and so forth. When are people going to wake up and realize that most committed gay and lesbian couples are very similar to their heterosexual, married counterparts, and therefore should have the same rights?

Michelle Boorstein:

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Washington, DC: Thank you for this article. What types of arrangements would be void under the VA law? If health care proxies and wills would most likely be upheld in court, what types of contarcts might a couple put in place that VA would consider an attempt to simulate marriage?

Michelle Boorstein: That's a very good question that I wish I could clearly answer. However, Virginia -- as every state does -- lays out a host of "rights and responsibilities" of marriage. This includes the areas of spousal financial support, child care responsibilities.

When I spoke about this with Del. Dave Albo (as I said before, he is a Northern Virginia legislator who co-sponsored the new Virginia law) he said he believed gay couples could access many of the rights heterosexual couples get automatically, so long as they spell out their desires in contracts.

He also added:

"Actually, there are certain rights they can never get, like barring a creditor from seizing a house, or automatically receiving all the property of a partner, like married couples ... Look, if everything was black and white this job would be easy. You either support gay marriage or you don't. I agree there are arguments on both sides, but my conscience says: I don't believe gay marriage is appropriate and there is only a green button and a red button."

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Michelle Boorstein: more comments....

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San Diego, Calif.: To Alexandria, Va. -- a news flash: Heterosexual couples have been shacking up and procreating and resisting the need for a "silly piece of paper" for decades --actually far longer -- and civilization is still standing.

and to the woman who feels that couples like this are bashing being single: are you serious? these women probably don't consider themselves single. they're life partners who aren't married. there's a difference in being single (no significant other) and having a partner in life (married or no).

finally, to all those who keep insisting that there can't be gay marriage because marriage is a religious rite. it's not. the state issues marriage licenses, not civil union licenses (unless you're gay). if i get married by a justice of the peace with no mention of religion or god it's a marriage. in fact, it was only in fairly recent history (think a few centuries) that the church became involved in marriage at all. it was previously a civil arrangement between two households (property exchange and all that.)

Michelle Boorstein:

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Arlington, Va.: Just a comment: I have never really bought into this Virginia-Maryland border war; it seems petty and small, in a "my toys are better than your toys" way. There are opponents and supporters of laws like this in both states. For people to automatically write Virginia off as a backwater redneck state is to completely miss the point. There is no state in the Union, including Maryland, where the GLBT community is recognized as fully human. This is a national problem, not a state-to-state problem. Maryland residents shouldn't get complacent and smug; it could happen in your state, too, especially with your current governor. Maybe if we stop bickering about whose state is better, we'd actually be able to achieve real change for everyone...

Michelle Boorstein:

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Arlington Va.: to Raphine who said "Most Virginians are happy to see the homosexual element leave the state with their radical agenda." Which radical agenda would that be? The one where my partner and I pay our taxes, work in our yard, pay our bills, and wash our cars on Saturday? How can you logically argue that whatever legal recognition our relationship has will in any way whatsoever affect yours?

Michelle Boorstein:

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Burke, Va.: The law was passed at a moment of stupidity, and I belive many Virginian politicians would like their vote back. Several Viriginia politicians lost their election in part because of their vote for this.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Ithaca, NY: In response to Raphine:

Thank you for sharing. The Taliban would be proud.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Los Angeles, Calif.: What people are missing here is the message sent when a constitutional ammendment is passed that says one group of people and their relationships is more valued than another. From this bully pulpit it becomes easy to openly debase, devalue and attack verbally. Then the ball starts rolling for some to justify homophobic violence as what is good for society after all to keep those gays in check. Gay people now have more civil rights in South Africa than they do in Virginia. I truly consider Virginia a hate state and will be vacationing in Canada, Spain, England, South Africa, etc. where I am valued as a human being and can breathe free air for a change. I guarantee you that I will only retire in a state or country that gives me equal rights. With liberty and justice for all has become a big lie in this country of ours. It has now fallen to others to carry this banner high for the world to see.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Waldorf, Md: Tibby and Barbara - I know you are reading these comments and please don't let any of the negative ones get to you. You made a choice to leave VA (it's their loss b/c of all that you did - volunteer and career-wise - in their state) and you moved to MD (welcome - our gain, heads up Frederick) and now you shared your story. A love story between two people who obviously enjoy each other's company, get along very well, raised a little boy to become a fine man and more.

I wonder how many heterosexual couples, married for 1, 10, 30 years can say the same thing. Hmmm, I'm sure many of the divorces today are because couples don't enjoy each other's company or get along well enough to make it last.

Good for you both, enjoy the rest of your lives together and I hope that when the first of you departs this earth that the other will be able to receive all that is rightfully hers.

Merry Christmas and Happy 2006!

Michelle Boorstein:

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Washington, DC: Comments like the very first make me the saddest of all. There are all types of aberrant behaviors -- rapists, child molesters, drug addicts who have behaviors that cost the state a great deal of money. I don't see anyone suggesting that they should not be allowed to marry or have children. To state that a monogomous lesbian couple who have raised a healthy son, contributed to their community both as respected professionals and devoted volunteers should not be given the same rights -- well, it just makes me very sad. I suppose that since my husband and I are unable to have children makes us less desirable to society, too, according to the first commenter.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Baltimore, Md.: This story illustrates the inevitable heartbreak that comes with discrimination. These antigay statues further erode our sense of humanity and fellowship with neighbors. We should be promoting and upholding couples who are in loving, longstanding relationships.

The antigays bills and laws do not protect marriage. If these folks want to protect marriage, they should pass legislation that protects the family like universal health care, pro-education bills, and fair wage laws, anti poverty legislation. Antigay bills are smoke screens used by folks to the right of center to divert attention from substantive issues (i.e. fighting domestic and global poverty, environmental concerns, i.e.). Let's get down to the real issues instead of scapegoating people who are in mature, loving relationships.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Annandale, Va.: What a beautiful bittersweet story. It left me sad and angry that we have come aways but not far enough -- my two great aunties lived together from the 1930s until the death of my "Auntie Frances" in 1992. My family never questioned their relationship but all the same they were simply "roommates" to anyone who asked.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Owings, Md.: My partner and I are a gay couple of 11 years and moved to MD some years ago from Fairfax County, VA. Your article resonated with us. Like the lovely couple you profiled, we are church-goers, fairly private, and became very worried about VA's increasingly anti-gay climate. The one disappointment in the article was your brief profile of the bigoted women who is volunteering to help promote anti-gay laws in the Virginia General Assembly. As she and other anti-gay bigots own the Virginia General Assembly, U.S. Congress, and the White House, why bother to include her perspective in the article? That point of view gets more than its fair share of airtime.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Fredericksburg, Va.: Hi Michelle,As a FredVegas resident yourself I am sure you would agree that the 'Burg is a wonderful place to live. My husband and I have lived here for years. I tell my friends that I live in Peyton Place because everyone knows everything about everyone else. I am glad that your article was able to convey the uniqueness of Fredericksburg, which is a progressive oasis surrounded by the increasingly conservative areas of Stafford and Spotsylvania counties. Fredericksburg is a town that is very secure in it's own identity, a sleepy southern town with a tremendous amount of diversity and traditions. I am so sorry that Tibby and Barbara felt the need to move. I am very concerned about this law. Your article has prompted me to find out more about this law and work to ensure it's demise.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Arlington, Va.: I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me how same-sex marriage is harmful to my marriage. If someone can provide such an argument without using religious texts, I could be persuaded. Until then, I will consider anyone who opposes same-sex marriage to be no better than those who taunted the freedom marchers of the 1960s. Equal Justice Under Law must apply to everyone or it applies to no one!

Michelle Boorstein:

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Double discrimination: My BF & I are not married (yet) but we qualify for many of the rights that this couple do not simply because my status is not questioned. We live together so people just assume we are married. When we travel, the rental car place assumes we are married because our license has the same address (the fact that we have different names is so common now a days that no one thinks twice). When I had surgery, they assumed he was my spouse & didn't challenge his coming back to talk to the doctor with me. We even travelled through customs together as if we were married because it was easier & no one would know the difference. We aren't married any more than the two people in the article, but we certainly have an easier time anyway.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Owings, Md: Thank you so much for your marvelous article. My partner and I moved from Virginia into Maryland five years ago. Although there are more anti-gay laws in Virginia now than there were then, we could see the writing on the wall. My partner is an 11th generation Virginian and I am a 7th generation Virginian, but we were troubled years ago by the Sharon Bottoms case. Since we were getting ready to go through the adoption process, and since my partner's parents are very anti-gay, we couldn't risk living there when, if anything happened to him, his parents would absolutely try to take any children and property we had. They might have succeeded, they might not, but as you stated, who wants to be a test case? We also had a run-in with Alexandria Hospital when my partner had a bad flu come upon him at work, they took him to Alexandria Hospital, and I had to jump through hurdles to get back to his room when I got there. Now they just as likely wouldn't let me in at all. People from other places don't understand the way Virginians feel about Virginia - we're taught to be that way from elementary school on - but I'm not sorry we left, and I pray every time we drive through that we won't be in an accident or otherwise have need of medical care or legal help.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Oakton, Va.: Can you people at the Post PUH-LEEZ stop beating to death these topics of gender and race and gay promotion. You obsesss over PC. Stop trying to change people's moral and family values. Gay people are nice, and I know some very nice and friendly ones. But that doesn't mean that the citizenry and community at large wants to soclally and publically legitimate every aspect of their behavior.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Virginia: I thought the article was good, but the situation of these two particular women failed to highlight a big problem with the current Virginia laws: let's say that one of them had a daughter or son who was NOT okay with homosexuality. Let's say they hadn't spoken in years, and the child hated the mother. If the child decided to fight the mother's legal will that left everything to her partner, or to fight the power of attorney that left end-of-life decisions to the partner, the child would have a decent chance of winning, despite the mother's wishes, simply because they have a relationship that is recognized by the state.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Michelle Boorstein: Our hour is up! Thanks to everyone who wrote. I will post more comments that we didn't get to. Michelle

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Red and Blue and Gray All Over: The arguments being made against same-sex marriage very much mirror those that were made against interracial marriage not-so-many decades ago.

To be even more controversial, arguing the merits and morality of same-sex marriage can be incredibly frustrating for both sides, almost as much as the issue of abortion. There is a fundamental disagreement on its morality--no one side will convince the other that it is correct--so a political debate must revolve around its legality. Pro-choice advocates argue that it will be done regardless of legality, so it is best that there is a safe and legal method for doing so. Pro-life advocates' most effective arguments are those that teach the alternatives and implications to and of making that decision.

Personally, I think that if marriage (or any relationship conferring the same rights as marriage, as many states have legislated) is to be prohibited to one group of people, it should be prohibited to all people. Let churches grant marriages and the state grant civil unions between any two people who have the ability to make a legal commitment to each other.

Speaking of which, a consenting adult is COMPLETELY different than an eight year old boy or a horse.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Deciding to Commit: I would like to disagree with Harrisonburg's assessment of bisexuality "...bisexuals must be free to live in a chainlink of relationships that extends indefinitely." Identifying as bisexual does not necessarily mean that one engages in multiple relationships at a time, but rather as the attraction to people of more than one gender.

It is my understanding that a heterosexual person can be attracted to more than one person over the course of one's lifetime, or even at the same time, but it does not necessarily impede that person's ability to make a commitment to love and honor one person and one person only through marital agreement. Certainly some bisexuals (and homosexuals) do not live lives that are conducive to marriage, but it is true that many heterosexuals do not either. Why does the state get to make the distinction for some people, and not for others?

Committed same-sex couples will enter into relationships regardless of their legality, and I feel it is the duty of the state to protect these commitments by providing legal recognition thereof. It is the responsibility of society to promote a healthy respect for what commitment means, regardless of the sexuality of the person making the commitment.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Staunton, Va.: I fail to understand how a heterosexual married couple (I am half of one) could possibly be threatened by a homosexual married couple.

My marriage doesn't succeed or fail on the merits of anyone else's efforts but mine and my husband's.

And saying that it's only for heterosexual procreation is stupid--does that mean the minute I am no longer fertile I am no longer a wife? What about my 92 year old grandfather who wants to marry his 88 yo girlfriend? What children are they going to have that the state of VA needs to protect? Or anyone else, for that matter?

Marriage is about love (now, wasn't ALWAYS like this)--divorce is about money!

Michelle Boorstein:

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Arlington, Va.: How exactly did Barbara and Tibby select Frederick as a place to live? No offense to the good folks who live there, but it strikes me as one of the less-"tolerant" cities for gay people in Maryland.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Springfield, Va.: Although I enjoyed reading your article and the rest of the post yesterday, I'm concerned about statements in the Post such as " until Virginia's lawmakers chased them across the Potomac." and "Then Virginia's new law against same-sex marriage made that impossible." The inflamatory wording in these statements - which were not quoted from the subjects of your articles, and are not supported by any facts cited in the piece - indicate a lack of objectivity on your part. Please explain how you came to write this story, and and how statements like these made it through any progfessional editor.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Vienna, Va.: Most journalists resort to labeling the Affirmation of Marriage law and the soon-to-be-passed Marriage Amendment as a vote against same-sex marriage - end of story. You did a much better job than most at informing people how much further both pieces of legislation go in maintaing (and in some cases cutting back) the status quo on restricting rights to gay couples, or as someone at Concerned Women for America might put it, "protecting" society from thinking that being a homosexual is an acceptible "alternative" in life.

The wording of this language is what hurts me the most. Unlike the one in Oregon that simply bans gay marriage, the one in Virginia is spitefull and hatefull as it bars even "the obligations and significance" of marriage to gay couples. My relationship is every bit as significant to me, as my parents is to them. I am a tax paying citizen who offers as much to society as the next. If Americans working hard to deny other Americans their pursuit of happiness isn't hate, I don't know what is.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Richmond, Va.: The person who sent the first comment said: "If medical records and public health statistics are accepted, the health risks and related costs that go along with nontraditional partnerships --lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered partnerships, some brief, others lifelong, are incalcuably high."

This is a classic example of opinion presented as fact, and I'm not buying it. There may be health risks that go along with "nontraditional" (presumably non-monogamous) sex lives, whether straight or gay, but partnerships per se cannot possibly create health risks. If anything, they provide the social support that endless studies have shown is crucial for good health and long lives.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Washington, DC: Very riveting article. I empathize greatly with the very fine ladies, but remain conflicted. I have a few peronal friends who share that lifestyle and are raising families. It is clear, that many like me share the conflict in supporting our friends while feeling a need to hold somewhat firm to the traditional view of marriage.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Springfield, Va.: I look forward to your follow-up article in which you spend 8-10 pages describing Heterosexual couples who decided to either stay in VA or move there because they were comfortable with the defense of marriage amendment. Please be sure to include less than a page from people opposed to the amendment, so as to be as evenhanded and fair as you were in yesterday's article.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Washington, D.C.: While I could support civil unions, I don't think I could support gay marriage.

Still, has it dawned upon those fighting for gay marriage that one of the problems could be that many folks oppose both civil unions and gay marriage could be concerned unrelated people are getting rights that people with familial ties can't get.

While some of us can't place our parents on our health insurance policies and are struggling to pay for elder care and our own children. Health insurance and life insurance companies don't recognize my mom as my parent. But if we were two unrelated people in a "committed relationship" then fine. There is something wrong with that.

Michelle Boorstein:

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Arlington, Va.: As a native Virginian, I am mortified by the behavior and actions of my state's officials. I want to applaud Tibby and Barbara for courageously sharing their story and let them know that they are role models not just for gays, but for everyone, on how to live an honest and true life. If more heterosexual couples emulated the loyalty and quiet conviction these women have for their lives and for each other, I firmly believe this world would be a better place. Best wishes to you both, forever.

Michelle Boorstein:

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St. Mary's City, Md.: I'm a straight man who has been married for seven years, and I don't understand how same-sex marriage supposedly undermines straight marriage. I have no problem with people who have personal religious objections to homosexuality. But I do have a problem when opponents of same-sex marriage use scare tactics to demonize gays and lesbians. To hear opponents talk, you would think there is some vast left-wing gay conspiracy to make straight men leave their wives and children and run off with Raoul the pool-boy.

Michelle Boorstein:

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