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Monday, January 7, 2013

A Northwest Love Story

Posted by on Mon, Jan 7, 2013 at 10:02 AM

Last week, the Oregonian profiled Eric Marcoux and Eugene Woodworth, a gay couple together for 60 years. It's a beautiful piece: The pair is smart and witty, and they share valuable insights about the things that make a looooooong-term relationship work. You should read it. Here's a detail that leaped out at me:

We had a dear friend who was a rogue Franciscan. And he married us. Many years later, when Eugene and I were getting close to our 40th anniversary, sitting with the two abbots at Dharma Rain Zen Center, and we said, "We wish we could have a Buddhist wedding." And the one abbot said to her husband, "Well, we really haven't done anything for the gay community. So why don't we give you a space and a ceremony?" So, ironically, we've had two religious weddings, and not any civil union. We can't afford the civil union. Our attorney said, "Often when people come to me at your age I advise them to get divorced." When you have such minimal resources, if one of you has a devastating disease, then you have to spend all the way down in order to qualify for Medicaid. Whereas if you're divorced or single, the burden is seriously reduced. I would love to say, "Let's run over to Washington and do it!" But pragmatically, not. It wouldn't change the internal chemistry, alchemy, that we live with. But boy, I want to live long enough to see this happen in Oregon. Because I've become so aware of the humanizing and civilizing dimensions of being in a publicly recognized relationship.

First, you would think all those brave "defenders of marriage" out there would be doing something about Medicaid regulations that force married couples—married straight couples—to divorce in order to access benefits.

And then there's this: What most opponents of same-sex marriage object to—what most people who would deny this loving, lasting couple the humanizing and civilizing dimensions of legal and public recognition object to—is the idea that two men or two women could stand at an altar and have their marriage blessed in a religious ceremony. This couple has already had two religious weddings. There are plenty of churches and religious groups and religious traditions that will marry same-sex couples and already are marrying same-sex couples. Denying the civil right of marriage to same-sex couples like Eric and Eugene doesn't prevent same-sex couples from undergoing the religious rite of marriage.


Comments (13) RSS

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despicable me 1
Glad you posted this, Dan. All my best wishes to Marcoux and Eugene. LOVE IS LOVE!
Posted by despicable me on January 7, 2013 at 10:10 AM · Report this
despicable me 2
Sheesh, Eric and Eugene. I loved the name Marcoux when I first read this.
Posted by despicable me on January 7, 2013 at 10:22 AM · Report this
Freedom of religion needs to go both ways. When conservative churches object to SSM, I tell them that my religious freedom has been oppressed because my church was not allowed to perform same sex marriages, as is our belief.

At our church, we have performed two same sex marriages since they became legal, and they were both moving and beautiful. AND, the world continued to turn, the church was not hit by lightning, and day continued to follow night.

Nobody has the right to force their own beliefs onto anyone else. I know that many people here on Slog would call me delusional just for having faith. I have no problems with that. They have just as much right to not believe, as I have to believe. Live and let live people.
Posted by SeattleKim on January 7, 2013 at 10:23 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 4

Therein lies your problem. Conservative churches don't believe in freedom of religion. From their point of view, only their religion and their beliefs deserve to be recognized by the state; ergo, they will oppose anything that subverts that.
Posted by keshmeshi on January 7, 2013 at 10:32 AM · Report this
The Medicaid issue is a tough one. Medicaid is available to some low-income and handicapped people, depending upon their personal resources. In most states, marriage means that most of your assets and income are melded, and each partner's "legal" income and assets partakes of the other partner's income and assets. You'd have to change that situation, rather than the Medicaid requirements.
Posted by sarah70 on January 7, 2013 at 10:44 AM · Report this
Pick1 6
The same groups advocating for mandatory public prayer in schools are suing states for having Ashtanga Yoga in the school because "SEPERATION OF CHURCH AND STATE"

It's a weird and hypocritical world we live in.
Posted by Pick1 on January 7, 2013 at 10:46 AM · Report this
nocutename 7
It's kind of ironic: I remember when (about 20 years ago) same-sex couples could have religious, though not civil, civilly recognized, or legally-binding "commitment ceremonies." Not all religions performed or endorsed them, of course. But they were the only option that existed. I went to a couple and they were beautiful and affirming.

Then the push for civil and recognized marriage came, and now people who are civilly married are reassuring religions that no one is going to make them perform marriages.

And there's something definitely depressing about a lawyer advising his older, financially insecure clients to divorce or not to marry once they finally achieve that long-struggled-for right. If I recall, there was an old "All in the Family" episode about two older people who were living together "in sin," and when Archie disapproved, it was explained that because of the way Medicaid was set up, they couldn't afford to get married. Some things haven't changed much.
Posted by nocutename on January 7, 2013 at 10:55 AM · Report this
nocutename 8
Oh wait, it wasn't medicaid, it was Social Security.
Posted by nocutename on January 7, 2013 at 11:02 AM · Report this
@2-you could name your next pet Marcoux.
Posted by Marcelle Marcoux on January 7, 2013 at 11:31 AM · Report this
I would say the Medicaid rules strongly encourage, rather than "force", couples to divorce (or to dissuade them from marrying).

Another distortion that the Medicaid rules encourage is giving away assets--if your net worth is at an awkward in-between level (too high to qualify for Medicaid, but too low to pay for your own Long Term Care costs for very long) one option is to max out tax-free gifts to your heirs for a few years (currently $13,000 a year per gift recipient, or $26,000 per year per recipient for couples).

The way things are set up now with Medicaid, if you have a couple hundred thousand dollars in assets outside of your primary residence, you don't qualify. Planning for that situation a few years in advance can allow a person to help their kids out with significant tax-free gifts (the gifts effectively become their inheritance), rather than burning through their life savings in a couple years in a long term care or assisted living facility.

With long term care running $6000 or $9000 a month a more, it doesn't take long to burn through a couple hundred thousand dollars--thus the strong temptation to game the Medicaid rules.
Posted by Functional Atheist on January 7, 2013 at 12:19 PM · Report this
@10 a trust fund is a fantastic way to achieve the same goal while still determining how the money will be spent.
Posted by wxPDX on January 7, 2013 at 1:47 PM · Report this
I concur. If the pro-family and pro-marriage groups were really what they claimed to be, they'd care more about these hardship-based barriers to staying married than about homosexuality. If anything, more people who want to be married and take it seriously are a good thing for traditional marriage.
Posted by DRF on January 7, 2013 at 2:29 PM · Report this
smajor82 13
@5 No - you could also change the medicaid requirement to vary depending on marital status. Or better yet, just give everyone health care like the rest of the developed world.
Posted by smajor82 on January 8, 2013 at 9:58 AM · Report this

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