Oregon gay couple’s Christmas letter urges neighbors to talk about marriage equality

Posted by Angela Webber on beavertonvalleytimes.com:

"Aloha residents Dan and Marcos German-Domingues sent out a Christmas card with a special message this year.

"The couple, with help from Portland-based nonprofit Basic Rights Oregon, sent out hundreds of letters to their neighbors asking them to take a moment during the holiday season to think and talk about an issue close to their hearts — marriage equality.

"Dan and Marcos met while volunteering for the rights organization. They fell in love quickly, they say, and now, Dan said, 'In our hearts, we are as good as married.'

"The German-Domingueses are planning a wedding ceremony for fall 2011, at which they expect 500 guests. The wedding will surely be impressive, but it will not be recognized by the state of Oregon.

“'We wanted to let our neighbors know that we are the same, we are like them. We are people who want to have a family, go to church, and go to work,' Dan said. If their neighbors can see that they are normal people, the couple hopes the personal connection might make people rethink their views on the freedom to marry.

"Dan and Marcos have a domestic partnership, a connection that earns them many of the same rights as married couples. But this isn’t enough, they say.

“'People can use this relationship status to avoid doing what’s right,' Dan said. He was unable to add Marcos to his company health insurance, for example.

“'The company said that it’s not discrimination to not offer health benefits to my domestic partner, because…it has to be marriage. That was their out to not cover him as my committed spouse, because in Oregon it’s not called marriage,' Dan said.

"Even in his family, the lack of a formal, legal title keeps people from acknowledging the committed relationship that’s there, Dan said. The couple hopes their holiday letter will give their neighbors a chance to think about issues like these, so they can think about the reasons that they might oppose marriage equality.

“'A lot of people may not realize that they know gay people,' Dan said. He hopes that personal connection might change someone’s mind.

"There’s data to back up his hope, too, though in a slightly different sphere.

"A recent pentagon investigation leading up to the repeal of the 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell' policy on gays in the military found that service members who had experience working with a gay person had a more positive outlook on gays in the military. For example, the investigation showed that 73.9 percent of survey respondents who served with a gay person said that having openly gay coworkers would have a positive or neutral effect on combat performance in an 'intense combat situation,' versus 66.9 percent among respondents who said they had not served with a gay person.

"Back to the topic of marriage, some straight couples might never cross paths with gay people. Dan was in a straight marriage prior to coming out as gay, and said that the experience opened his eyes.

“'The impression is that (gay people are) freakish, or different, or weird, and we really want people to know that we’re not,' Dan said. 'We’re just like them, we have the same needs, the same desires. Everyone wants to love somebody, and everyone deserves to have someone special in their life.'

... "Dan and Marcos say that the fact that they can’t be legally married is an ongoing 'emotional frustration.'

“'It would make life so much easier for all of us,' Dan said.

“'Love is love no matter who you love,' Marcos said."

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