Bill Sell

A Fair Vote is a NO Vote. Proposed Constitutional Amendment, November 7

Dear Seniors,

For your own sake, please put aside any personal or religious opinions you have about gays and lesbians and vote NO on November 7. Wisconsin law already forbids marriage between same gender persons.

The proposed Constitutional Amendment, however, will complicate the retirements and estates of single or widowed seniors.

That Amendment could invite your surviving relatives to challenge agreements (wills, living wills, trusts, custody of your children, visitation rights in the hospital or at your death bed, funeral arrangements) - agreements that you wish to sign before you die. Read the second sentence of that Amendment, and then let me tell you my story.

“Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state.” [emphasis added]

I am now single and I remember buying this, my first house, and how America really does make a house a home, a home a castle. Sheltered from all that ails our world, I feel kingly within its four walls. Its sunny urban yard I am turning into a native and perennial garden. I can do (almost) whatever I want. My neighbors are the best (and most patient) people on earth.

The asters glow now in the Fall, but do you realize that it takes them two months to bloom? And while we wait here on Lenox, I am teased for what they call “Bill’s weeds.” I am thriving in this place; Bay View is good because the neighbors care.

But the supreme endorsement of my empire is from a Buddhist cat who stretches out in the garden and meditates on her oneness with the universe - the contemplative nun of Lenox Manor.

Slowing down faster than I am, she gives me lessons on aging during our common evenings, man book cat. I ask her is she racing to her funeral? I ask her if she’s written a will? Lately it’s become clear that I need to do the thinking here.

From the start this has been my “feet first” house - as in the manner in which I plan to leave it. Reluctantly. But between life with a bicycle and that ride in a hearse, there will be days I just can’t get out to buy food. Life becomes simpler and more complicated at the same time; single life as a senior has special perils, special needs protected by intelligent laws. And that is why that proposed Amendment is a bad idea for any single or surviving senior.

A companion would help; the Amendment however, suggests that a companion and I might be forbidden from drawing up a contract. The phrase that bugs me is “substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals…” Huh?

Marriage, of course, is the all purpose Republican solution. Republicans love man-woman marriages - not that they are experts in how to maintain one.

But let’s be seniors about this - no whining - and bring our wisdom to the debate. We know, if no one else does, that the easier it is to marry, the bigger the risk you may be taking.

Yes, if you need to, scold those child Republicans at the helm of power today, but be patient; they are still on a learning curve while they mess with our lives. If they live long enough they will come to their blogs and tell us how they regret the arrogance of their youth, how they wasted time on foolish lawmaking. This Amendment in particular will, if passed, curse their own senior years. They will then understand. They will then fight to have their very own Amendment overturned; and they will then be pleading with their children that this Amendment was a very bad idea.

I know today that with this Amendment it would be smart for me NOT to have a guy for a roommate. I know this because I’m a senior; I can read; I’ve been around the block. And words mean what they say - especially Constitutional words.

What I want is simple, and requires no new laws, but only common sense and, maybe, a simple legal agreement that takes care of three people minding their own business: my son, my roommate, and me. If a Constitutional Amendment takes away my right to that basic legal framework, it does not belong in the Constitution.

Down the block I have a friend. He’s a bit younger, physically stronger - perfect. Let’s imagine that he and I are discussing pooling resources when we decide to abandon the 9 to 5 work day and pursue life itself. So we pick a house, his or mine. Let’s say, mine. And I say, “If I kick off, stay here as long as you want but my son gets it after you’re done with it. OK?” Fine. Let’s sign something so that the wicked relatives leave us alone.

Like I said above, the phrase that bugs me is “substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals…”

How does one prove that what you are doing in your house (your castle, remember?) is NOT similar to a marriage?

Do we get Republican bed checks to prove we aren’t “doing” anything? Do we get a Certificate of Chaste Companionship if we let the bureaucrats inspect our sheets, or pop in at 2 a.m.? And, finally, why is this important?

It’s important because death changes everything.

Recently I assisted an attorney after the death of his friend’s spouse. He said he knew the loving relatives beforehand and pointed out to me how their affection for the widow shifted to their affection for her husband’s estate. This transmogrification of the relatives is no joke. These folks made their interest plain in the person of an aggressive attorney determined, it seemed to me, to drag the discussion into some hefty fees. Her attorney was required to make demands on the estate for basic living expenses. People change when an estate looms. Many of you saw that in your own families; sadly, I did, too.

See below

Some of you think you have no wicked in-laws to fear. OK, good luck. My case, too, if my son survives me no agreement is necessary - to say “if” about my son in a public forum is the shameless demand these issues make on our privacy.

Given that my estate will have a six-figure property; given that my friend and I will be in a household in a relationship that “substantially similar” to that of marriage (two guys “shacked up”); given that the this Constitutional Amendment would open up opportunities for lawyers, the relatives will definitely pay attention.

So, how can I possibly support this Amendment?

Even putting aside the worst of it.

The crime is that those who wrote this proposed Amendment intended to punish adults by depriving children of their rights to a lifelong bond with their biological and adoptive parents. Other writers have made this case more eloquently, but as I see it, this proposal law raises obstacles to that human desire of mature adults to feed, educate, school, and nurture children as a family. That very impulse that so many people complain is missing in our world; and they now want the Constitution to make it worse.

No religion worth its name should be supporting this effort to tear at the fabric of the family. And, let me remind the proponents, you cannot save the institution of marriage by attacking families.

But they do. And they are.

In fighting this Amendment I believe I am on the side of democracy, fairness, old fashioned love-your-neighbor religion, and loyal to life long friendships - lesbians and gays who adorn my life as icons adorn the chapel of a dead king. Those who support this Amendment are driven by a false notion of Christianity bolstered by a few selected rules written by a people 6000 years ago, wandering in a desert, and in desperate need of children to survive. Most of those rules have been abandoned by common sense.

Anyone who has executed an estate knows how messy it can get even with carefully written agreements. In the future, tenancy agreements between two men, or between two women, who happen to want to live together, could be declared unconstitutional. And that is why we need to defeat this Amendment. Vote No.

Peace and joy to all: singles, loving couples, functioning households, and their children.

In the woods these days

Please circulate this link to other seniors in Wisconsin.

Last edited by TeganDowling. Based on work by bs.  Page last modified on October 27, 2006

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