On July 24, the first day same-sex couples in New York could legally marry, Randy was at the hospital feeding an elderly patient, while his partner Jay was curled up at home reading a book.
Together for almost 10 years now, this gay couple from Brooklyn appeared to be in no rush to settle down, unlike many same-sex couples in the city, led by actress Cynthia Nixon, who are expected to jam city clerk offices in the five boroughs to exchange rings, vows and that once-elusive ‘I do.’
“We’ve talked about it,” said Randy, a registered nurse. “But he’s not ready yet.”
His partner Jay, a bookkeeper in a Manhattan sales office, is of the view that marriage will only be possible when both he and Randy are financially stable.
“I wanted to, but he said we both have to be financially secure, and this makes me sad,” said Randy. “So I will just respect what he wants, because there is no perfect relationship anyway.”
While many Filipino gays and lesbians are in support of the historic Marriage Equality Act, not all of them are leaping at the chance to get a license. There are many reasons, for one the conservative Catholic families who struggled with their ‘coming out’ and who will probably become as emotional or resentful when they seal their non-traditional relationship with a wedding. There is also the issue of economics as in the narrative of Randy and Jay. For couples where one partner is undocumented, there is a feeling of dismay that marriage would not lead to the filing of immigration petitions. And in the case of Marisse Panlilio and her partner, marriage is simply not for everyone.
Ecstatic. That’s how businesswoman Marisse Panlilio felt when Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the same-sex marriage bill into law on June 24, giving gay and lesbian couples hundreds of the same rights as heterosexual couples, including the right to jointly file income taxes and a married partner’s right to inheritance. New York was the sixth state to recognize same-sex marriage, following Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.
“Two people who love each other should be allowed the same rights, privileges and responsibilities, no matter their genders and their status,” Panlilio said. “If A becomes ill, B is not guaranteed the right to be with her in the hospital. If B dies, her distant nieces and nephews have more of a claim to her belongings than A does. They file ‘single’ on their tax returns and are not allowed to be on each other’s health plans.”
But a sense of foreboding and pessimism is holding Panlilio back. “I’m wondering how many of these unions will end up in divorce?”
Panlilio didn’t think anything was going to change between her and Cosette, her partner of 20 years.
“Some relationships are not meant to last, married or not, but ours will stay the same.”
But let’s face it, she said. Marriage as an institution “is in crisis.”
“True, we are fighting for the same rights as the rights of male-female unions, but what we call marriage is in crisis. Will our side of the equilibrium be better than the norm?” she wondered with a shrug.
While she conceded that being married would fix some of the kinks in the civil status of gays and lesbians, she said it has not functioned that way for many married heterosexuals.
“Divorce has become a way of life,” she said.
Cristina DC Pastor is the founder and editor of The FilAm, an online magazine for Filipinos in New York.