Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Maryland’s Anti-Gay Governor

Via Jason Kuznicki, a story I missed: the governor of Maryland, Robert Ehrlich, has vetoed a bill that would have given gay couples the legal right to be treated as a relative in medical situations. As the Washington Post reports:

Modeled after laws in California, Hawaii and other states, the legislation would have granted nearly a dozen rights to unmarried partners who register with the state. Among those: the right to be treated as an immediate family member during hospital visits, to make health care decisions for incapacitated partners and to have private visits in nursing homes.

And as Jason notes, this is not just a legal codification of something gay couples already have. Time after time, gay couples have been denied these rights across the country despite having signed medical power of attorney and making their wishes known to the hospital or other service provider. Equality Maryland has a long list of examples from that state alone. For Jason, this is personal and very real:

The decision affects me personally. I am in a committed seven-year relationship that my nearest biological relatives do not recognize. They may very well prevent my husband Scott from visiting me if I were incapacitated and would almost certainly reject his advice on end-of-life decisions.

It is absurd that my parents should be the ones to make medical decisions for me. I am not a child–yet the law treats me as an infant if I am incapacitated, and it would deny me the most important emotional support that I could have in times of need.

I would say the law in this case treats him as less than an infant, it treats him as a pariah. What makes it even worse is the patently ridiculous argument that Ehrlich used to justify his veto:

He said, however, that the bill’s requirement that couples register as life partners “will open the door to undermine the sanctity of traditional marriage.”

The words “fucking” and “moron” come immediately to mind. Wouldn’t you love to hear this guy try to babble his way through an attempted explanation of how letting gay couples visit each other in the hospital or plan their partner’s funeral will “undermine the sanctity of marriage”? This is purely about denying the most basic rights to gay people, rights that the rest of us take for granted. And what makes me most angry about it are statements like this:

Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr. (R-Anne Arundel), a leader of the petition drive, said organizers would soon decide whether to continue, in case lawmakers override Ehrlich’s veto in January. Dwyer said he was “very pleased that the governor has sent a strong message about the morality of the state.”

Yes, you vile bigot, he has done exactly that. He has committed the state to the utterly immoral position that a person can be denied emotional comfort in the most vulnerable time of their lives as a matter of official policy. Imagine the pain that is caused for those who lack such basic protections. Let’s put a face on it:

Bill Flanigan had to live through everyone’s worst nightmare when his partner, Robert Daniel, became critically ill while they were traveling together. Alone in a strange city, they were separated during Robert’s precious last hours. Bill and Robert were registered domestic partners in their home city of San Francisco. When they traveled to the east coast, they brought their durable and medical powers of attorney with them, knowing that Robert’s health was fragile. In Havre de Grace, the staff at Harford Memorial Hospital made them both as comfortable as possible and allowed Bill to remain with Robert through the night. When Robert was transferred to the Shock Trauma facility in Baltimore, their nightmare truly began. Bill waited for information and access to Robert, but was not called up from the waiting area. He asked for information and was told that partners were not accepted in Shock Trauma. Bill knew that Robert’s medical power of attorney was in his file, and asked that a supervisor be sent so that he could explain his need to be with Robert. No supervisor ever responded to his request. Four hours after Bill and Robert arrived at the Shock Trauma unit, Robert’s sister arrived from another state. She was immediately brought to Robert’s side, and she demanded that Bill also be brought in to Robert. When Bill and Robert were finally reunited, Robert had lost consciousness, and never regained it. Bill and Robert were denied their right to be together as Robert lay dying. Robert’s own wishes about his medical care were ignored when Bill was not allowed to advocate for him. Bill is haunted by the promises he made and was not able to keep. He promised his partner that he would not be forced to undergo unwanted life-extending interventions. He promised his partner that he would not be alone. He promised that they would say goodbye to each other.

Bill Flanagan is not alone. Similar scenes have been played out thousands and thousands of times around the country. We’ve known many people whose families, unaccepting of their child’s homosexuality, denied even visitation rights to the person that their child loved the most and needed the most at their most critical times. And they have the audacity to call this moral? It makes me seethe with anger, the image of these people smugly congratulating themselves for their self-righteousness while hurting so many good and decent people. Jesus had a few words for such bigots: “Whatever you do unto the least of these, my brethren, you do unto me also.” I have more than a few words for them too, mostly of the 4-letter variety. If this is “morality”, what on earth is its opposite?


  1. #1 Reed A. Cartwright
    May 23, 2005

    Bill Flanagan should look into suing the hospital for ignoring the medical power of attorney. Given the way the sister reacted the hospital can’t rely on a family feud to get out of it.

  2. #2 CPT_Doom
    May 23, 2005

    Even worse than all this, as reported on Americablog, the governor’s chief of staff is openly gay, and has worked with the governor for years.

  3. #3 DC
    May 23, 2005

    You know, I’m baptist, and this sickens me. But throughout history it is what happens when an ideology gets in front of people.

    It’s supposed to be about helping people, not hurting people. And in my view this can all be laid at the doorstep of religion.

  4. #4 Jeremy Henty
    May 23, 2005

    Recently I realised that Ehrlich and his kind are actually right, once I saw that “sanctity of marriage” is their code phrase for “hatred of others”. Damn *right* that treating gays as human beings will undermine that “sanctity”, and it can’t happen a moment too soon!

  5. #5 SharonB
    May 23, 2005

    Isn’t it supposed to be the “sanctimony” of marriage Erlich refers to?

  6. #6 spyder
    May 23, 2005

    From a commentary on Ehrlich’s decisions:
    “Gov. Robert Ehrlich last week undid any positive contributions with a stroke of his pen, bowing to the demands of his ultra-conservative base and vetoing two dozen bills. It may have scored him political points with the right wing, but the ultimate price is paid by the citizens of Maryland.”

    He vetoed all manner of legislation that presented support for social justice across a huge spectrum of citizens. He seems to be a serial hater of others, particularly those not white and rich and members of the religious right.

  7. #7 Clint
    May 24, 2005

    As disturbing as it is to hear of discrimination like this, to the people who love to hate gays you might as well be reciting a tale of some terrorist not getting to see his wife as he lay dying.

  8. #8 raj
    May 24, 2005

    A few personal notes.

    One: my same-sex spouse and I have health care proxies (which is what they are called in Massachusetts) for each other. They have been registered with all the medical institutions that we have dealt with and are likely to deal with in the future. In Massachusetts, of course. (BTW, we are Massachusetts residents, so he really is my spouse.)

    Two: my parents summer in Cincinnati OH, and winter in Ft Myers FL. We’d love to visit them, but the anti-gay policies in both states makes it virtually impossible. My spouse and I are getting rather older, and we both have had rather significant health problems. We cannot trust institutions in either of those states to recognize our health care proxies. Indeed, I would point out that the anti-gay policies in those states tend to be anti-family, certainly not pro-family. My parents have an open invitation to visit us in Boston, but I am not going to risk going to either OH or FL.

    Three: four years ago, while we were in Munich (Germany, not North Dakota), my spouse was diagnosed with a thrombosis in one of his legs. (His mother lives in a suburb of Munich–Muenchen–and we have a “vacation apartment” there.) He was in the hospital in Muenchen-Pasing for a week. Several of the nurses there noticed our attentiveness to each other while he was there, thought it nice, and wondered if we were married. This was before the decision in the Goodridge case here in MA, so obviously we were not. But it is interesting that, in the land of the former Nazis, we were made more welcome than we would be in our own land–the United States.

  9. #9 Matthew
    May 24, 2005

    Quick question. The anti gay right often uses the phrase “sanctity of marriage” as a reason for denying equal rights to homosexuals. In the various anti-gay legislations, especially those directly about marriage, is this phrase used? The reason I ask is because the word “sanctity” has a distinctly religious meaning and I was wondering if this laws could be considered unconstitutional on the basis of the religious language of them. Thanks.

  10. #10 Jason Kuznicki
    May 24, 2005


    Governor Ehrlich’s veto message certainly did use this word. Alhough veto messages aren’t subject to constitutional scrutiny, they are subject to public ridicule. Ehrlich wrote,

    Senate Bill 796 codifies a new relationship of life partner and could lead to the erosion of the sanctity of traditional marriage as already codified in Maryland law.

    It’s a pathetic, helpless God that needs the government to shore up His sanctity.

  11. #11 raj
    May 24, 2005

    I have to tell you, but at some point this gets to be stupid. Let’s cut to the chase. If this God of theirs’ was all the all-powerful being that they tell us S/He is, and if S/He didn’t want there to be any homosex, there wouldn’t be any. Everyone would be hetero. That stands to reason. S/He controls the universe–at least that’s the mythology–and S/He could make sure that everyone was hetero if S/He wanted us to be. The fact that there are people who want to have homosex suggests that S/He doesn’t care all that much about the issue.

    So, an intelligent person might wonder, why do those who profess to proclaim on behalf of Her/Him appear to put so much effort into the issue?

  12. #12 arensb
    November 9, 2006

    You’ve probably already heard that Ehrlich lost the election on Tuesday. But the vote count so far shows that Dwyer has been ousted as well.

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