Why Marriage Equality Can’t Wait

Why Marriage Equality Can’t Wait May 1, 2015

My good friend Todd Heywood has an article in the City Pulse, an alternative newspaper in Lansing, Michigan, about a gay couple in that city. Their story demonstrates why marriage equality is a necessity and it’s not something we can wait on. Real people are suffering without it.

Against this backdrop, a 27-year-old Mykul Johnson of Lansing met Henry David Thomas, 33. Everyone knew him as D.

D, a dancer who choreographed many local productions, was friendly and outgoing, Johnson recalled. The attraction was immediate.

“When I first came over, it was like late in the afternoon,” Johnson said. “He said, at some point early on, ‘I think you’re going to be spending the night.’ I had no objection whatsoever to that. So I did, and I’ve been here ever since.”

The two lived together in a two-story home on the east side. It’s filled with an eclectic mix of masks and pottery, artwork and photo mementos. For 37 years, it was Mykul and D’s home.

On March 21, one year to the day after a federal district court judge in Detroit struck down Michigan’s constitutional marriage ban, D Thomas passed away at age 69. He died of congestive heart failure and COPD. The couple could not tie the knot on March 22, 2014, when a federal court ruling created a short window during which same-sex marriage was legal in Michigan. D was tethered to an oxygen machine in the couple’s living room.

Johnson’s life now consists of phone calls, emails and errands for a local attorney handling D’s estate. By law, he is a legal stranger to D and his belongings. Those all belong to the estate, which is being liquidated.

And despite having spent money to have legal documents drawn up to assure that Johnson would have title to the couple’s home in the event of D’s death, he’s fighting for that too. The Ingham County Register of Deeds Office rejected a quit-claim deed because of legal errors on it.

The result? Five weeks after his partner’s death, Johnson, 63, has no idea, whether he will be able to keep their home.

“Mykul and D’s story is the perfect example of why we cannot delay justice any longer,” said Gina Calcagno, public education campaign director for Michigan for Marriage. “They pledged their lives to one another, they took on all of the responsibilities of marriage and never received the rights they deserved. Couples across Michigan and across the country, like Mykul and D, deserve to have the lives they have built together recognized.”…

“If the couple had been able to legally wed, if D had died, as his surviving spouse, Mykul would have inherited the home (absent any directive in D’s will leaving title to the home to someone else),” said Jay Kaplan of the ACLU of Michigan LGBT Project. “And if D had died without leaving a will, Mykul as his legal spouse also would have inherited the marital home. That is one of the many important legal benefits of civil marriage.”

Exactly right. When we debate these issues, it often takes on an abstract tone, like it’s just some airy legal argument. But real people are affected in a very direct and serious way. With all due respect to George Wallace — which is none whatsoever — I say: Equality now, equality forever.

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