Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On Eve of Arkansas Supreme Court Hearing on Marriage Equality, We Lose a Friend, His Marriage Still Unrecognized by Our State

This is a posting I'm composing with a heavy heart. Readers who have followed this blog for some time may remember that when Steve and I married in Little Rock this past May, I shared a photo (it's the one above) of the marriage of our friends Steve Thomas and Allan Cox. Judge (and Pastor) Wendell Griffen officiated at the marriage of Steve and Allan, and then later in the day, at my marriage to my Steve, with Steve Thomas and Allan Cox witnessing the marriage. That's Wendell in the photo above.

The day before Steve and I married, I shared Steve Thomas's Facebook account of his and Allan's (unsuccessful) attempt to marry in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, when the window for same-sex marriages had just opened. I also shared a photo of my Steve embracing Steve and Allan just after they married on 12 May in Little Rock.

My sad news is that our friend Steve Thomas died this morning at 3 A.M. after a long, gruesome battle with cancer. I would normally think twice about sharing personal news like this, but one thing makes me decide that it might be good for me to talk about this event today. That thing is this: another friend of Steve Thomas's has shared at her Facebook page today* (linking to a previous posting of mine about the marriage of Steve and Allan back in May) the following statement:

These two men are the sweetest most loving individuals I have had the pleasure of meeting during the time we have been involved in the lawsuit. Today we lost one of them to heaven. Please keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers. Steven will be missed and our hearts hurt with you Allen. 
Today the state of Arkansas does not recognize their marriage performed by Judge Wendell Griffen on May 12th. This is yet another reason we fight this fight. Their union should be recognized and no more harm done to this loving couple.

Today, in fact, this very day, the Arkansas affiliate of the Family Research Council, Arkansas Family Council, is sponsoring a rally on the steps of the state capitol to try to put pressure on the state Supreme Court to rule against marriage equality when the state Supremes finally take up the question of the stay they have imposed on same-sex marriage. The state Supremes' hearing is tomorrow.

I would not dream of cheapening the death of a friend by seeking to politicize that death. My friend Steve Thomas was long a strong, consistent, and brave advocate for the rights of LGBT people in Arkansas, however. Everything he fought for over the course of many years is bound up in the Arkansas Supreme Court hearing tomorrow.

And, as the Facebook posting I've published above rightly states, even as my friend Steve Thomas dies, his marriage in May to Allan Cox is not recognized by the state of Arkansas. This leaves Allan in a situation in which no surviving spouse should ever be left.

Real people and real lives are involved in these political battles. And real people have the potential to be seriously injured when their rights are not recognized and upheld by governing institutions. And when people of good will stand by in silence as rights are snatched away from their fellow citizens . . . .

* I'm not providing a link to this Facebook statement because I don't know personally the person making this statement, and don't know if her Facebook feed is public or private — though the statement came to me when she linked today to a posting of mine about Steve and Allan's marriage in May. As her statement indicates, she's one of several people who filed the lawsuit that eventually resulted in the decision of Judge Chris Piazza to strike down the ban on same-sex marriage in Arkansas.

The photo is by Little Rock photographer Marcus Rachard.

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