One of the most common arguments against gay marriage – after opponents use “God’s will,” “It’s unnatural” and “Won’t somebody please think of the chlldren!?” – is the line that civil unions are just as good. Civil unions are a way for gay couples to enter marriage-like unions in the eyes of the government. Why can’t us gays just be happy with that? Civil unions are just like marriage, just like carob is the same as chocolate.
If you want to see a case file as to how civil unions bear few, if not zero, of the same rights and privileges as marriage, one need only look at the tragic death of gay pornstar Wilfried Knight and his partner, Jerry. The two were together for eight years, but because they were from different countries, they couldn’t be together. Why not? Because Jerry was from the United States and Wilfried was living in London, England. Neither country has legalized gay marriage on a federal level; therefore, neither man could be sponsored for immigration status in the other’s country.
Wilfried Knight took his own life after losing his partner of eight years.
Once again, they were together for more than eight years. In the United States, marriage isn’t treated so much as sacrosanct as it is a cottage industry. You can get married to a complete stranger, you can marry someone solely for the sake of bleeding their bank account dry, and you can even dupe some poor schmuck into marrying you for the sake of a reality-TV show (only to divorce the poor bastard two months later for the sake of more episodes), but two men who love each other and who defy geography just to make it work? That is not allowed.
So the two of them went to one of the few first-world countries where gay marriage is legal: Canada. The plan was to get married and then for one of them to get a job and sponsor the other for immigration. Although Jerry successfully got a job at Lululemon, it wasn’t long before the company fired him. With the two of them backed into a corner, Jerry took his own life.
Here’s where things go from bad to worse: although Jerry and Wilfried were, in the eyes of the Canadian government, legally married, both Jerry’s will and family were based in the United States, where, in the eyes of their government, Wilfried had no legal standing in Jerry’s life. Wilfried had no legal bearing over his husband or anything in his life, and, earlier this month, he too died by suicide.
The tragic part of all this is that it could have been avoided. The only thing standing in the way of their ability to share their lives with each other was . . . well, irrational hatred. Unfeeling bureaucracy. Arbitrary laws that defy years of social and scientific progress. As Canadians, it’s easy for us to sometimes become complacent or to take our marital freedoms for granted. Globally, the fight for equality has come a long way, but we still live in a world where religious superstition permeates our laws and keeps loving couples from sharing their lives with each other. Hatred and bigotry still have the power to destroy human beings, just as it took the lives of Jerry and Wilfried.