The case of the death of Christina Santiago in the horrific stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair and resulting indignities faced by her long time lesbian partner at that hands of an Indiana coroner should make all you "traditional marriage" defenders think twice. This issue has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with civil rights.
Now, let me point out that as a gay man in a 14 year committed relationship, I have always been neutral on the concept of gay marriage and have purposefully avoiding getting into this debate. I am of that age, right on the cusp between the shift from growing up and living life in the closet and significant mainstream acceptance, where we avoided mimicking "the straights" because our uniqueness was still trendy. I come from the era where it was "en vogue" to have a gay friend. I still feel like that in many ways. I don't really have any desire to live my life exactly in the same way as thousands of years of straight people.
But, when death unfortunately comes to one half of a committed couple like Santiago and her partner in a state like Indiana without any protections for gay and lesbian couples, citing the US Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) Indiana is allowed to tell Stantiago's partner to go pound sand when trying to retrieve her partner's body, even I have to re-think the value of marriage.
The Marion County coroner's office is refusing to release Santiago's body to her partner; the office cited the Defense of Marriage Act as the reason why they've turned down Brennon's request to pick up her loved one's remains. DOMA allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Indiana has its own version of DOMA that outlaws same-sex marriage. Since Indiana law requires the next-of-kin to pick up Santiago's body, but the state won't recognize Brennon as the surviving spouse, Santiago's body is still laying in the morgue awaiting a solution. It's unclear whether or not Santiago has other family available to claim her corpse and take it home for burial.
This required Santiago's partner to search out a distant relative to claim the body. Had Indiana recognized the couple's civil union obtained in the state of Illinois, we wouldn't be having this discussion. We're merely talking about a partner's right to claim her long-time partner's body after a horrific death. Because of DOMA, individual states and the federal government are allowed to discriminate. There is no uniform guarantee of protection of this right or any of the hundreds of other CIVIL rights guaranteed to married straight couples in all 50 states including hospital visitation, spousal medical benefits and the power to make medical decisions for a partner. Because DOMA is a federal law, there are also many other federal CIVIL rights which are denied to gay and lesbian couples including tax-free inheritance, filing joint tax returns, and immigration when one partner is not from the US among many others.
Note I have not once mentioned anything about marriage in the religious context or that we should demand that religious institutions perform gay marriages. I have simply pointed out how lack of hundreds of CIVIL rights affects the daily lives of hundreds and thousands of loving couples of which Santiago's story is just a microcosmic example.
Marriage has changed over time. It has only been in the past 100 or so years that the woman had a choice in her marriage. Women and marriage were essentially a way to guarantee transfer of property and/or guarantee political alliances. Nobody today sees this change in marriage as the end of "traditional marriage". It's time to realize that marriage will continue to change and that granting gay and lesbians the the exact same rights as their straight counterparts is the right thing to do...from a CIVIL rights perspective.