United We Fall

Daniel, June 2000

In the film Desert Hearts, the adaptation of Jane Rule's novel Desert of the Heart, Helen Shaver's character steps off a train having arrived at her destination in Nevada. She follows a trail taken by many others over many years in search of a divorce not then practically available in other states.

This time-honored migratory pattern will soon be altered, it seems. Recent legislative efforts in the state of vermont in the u.s. and the state of rio de janeiro in brazil give new focal points diverse in geography, climate, and society to traveling lesbians and gay men.

The rio de janeiro state recently enacted legislation that among other provisions, will impose fines on people and institutions that are found to discriminate against gay people. Bars, hotels, and restaurants may be closed for repeated denial of services to gay people.

The federal government of brazil has decreed that same sex domestic partners may inherit each others pensions and social security benefits.

In Motown the big three automakers, General Motors, Ford, and the Chrysler division of DaimlerChrysler, at the prompting of the United Auto Workers union, announced they will extend health care benefits to partners of gay employees. Curiously the daimler part of daimlerchrysler will not.

United Airlines has also been dragged, kicking and screaming, to the nuptial bed.

Vermont's decision to provide for gay civil unions extends the privileges of marriage to gay people follows a ruling by the state supreme court that the state's exclusion of homosexuals from the state-conferred benefits of marriage, including everything from inheritance and probate rights to hospital visitation, violated the state constitution.

Despite all this the number of people without access to health care will remain pretty much unchanged. For those of us who achieve bliss without domesticity and for those of us denied domestic bliss the situation remains unchanged. This still leaves mere friends, often more important than family, at the door begging for mementos from the domestic partner. The energy which has been devoted to queer and human liberation is being stolen to provide legitimacy for straight wannabes.