Monday, September 01, 2008

Itinerary and Ire

So, my airline tickets to London and Delhi are finally in hand. T-11 days and counting. Every other sentence out of my mouth is "I don't want to go," but it seems that I have to, whether I want to or not. We have the webcams all set up so we can Skype, and Catherine has promised to visit, but I can't seem to stop feeling like this is all one big mistake. I spend all my free time reading cake decorating websites, contemplating a second (third? fourth?) career at the local bake shop. I'm pretty sure I'd be a good cake decorator.

As my departure draws nearer, I find myself growing more and more bitter about the Defense of Marriage Act. It's standing directly in between me and my partner, keeping us apart for twelve months simply because we're both female.

Here's the exact language from the DDRA booklet:

A dependent is any of the following individuals who accompany the fellow to his or her research site(s) for the entire fellowship period if the individual receives more than 50 percent of his or her support from the fellow during the fellowship period: 1) the fellow’s spouse; 2) the fellow’s or spouse’s children who are unmarried and under age 21.

Dependents for whom the fellow is requesting a dependent’s allowance must accompany the fellow to the research site for the entire fellowship period. Should a fellow’s dependent return to the U.S. during the tenure of the fellowship, the fellow will be required to return the full dependent's allowance.

The word "marriage" means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word "spouse" refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife. These definitions are found in 1 USC Section 7, commonly known as the “Defense of Marriage Act” and apply to all federal programs."

So, the fact that Catherine and I have been together for sixteen years means nothing--she doesn't count as a dependent, and doesn't qualify for a dependent's allowance. She could easily get a leave of absence from her job, and the living + dependent's stipend from the DDRA would easily support us both in London and India. But, no. Not straight, not possible. When my friends try to tell me I should be happy for "domestic partnerships" or "civil unions," I offer this as a clear and specific example of why these supposed "separate but equal" institutions are in fact still discriminatory.

A friend of mine who is in the process of applying for the Fulbright-Hays told me just today that she and her boyfriend have decided to get married so he will be considered a dependent. Well, I'm sure they would probably stay together, and even get married in the future, anyway; but the truth is, they can decide to get married because it's practical to keep them together in the next twelve months, reaping benefits denied to me.

Well, life isn't fair, and that's a lesson learned a long time ago, so I can't waste too much more energy on this. But when I'm sitting in front of the television, listening to a presidential candidate who believes civil unions are good enough, and that the federal government doesn't need to do anything to secure my marriage rights, I get angry all over again. It's probably a good thing I'll be spending the two months immediately before the presidential election away from American television and radio.

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