Sing You Home, by Jodi Picoult

It’s a while since I’ve reviewed a book – unlike my theatre reviews, I don’t have a professional sideline in the field any more, and with writing about & watching a lot of television and radio as well as numerous theatre trips, my recreational reading is much less frequent than it has been, or should be.

I have, however, utilised the time I spend walking and/or commuting with a subscription to Audible.co.uk, which gives me a credit for one new audiobook every month. My most recent ‘purchase’ under this scheme has been Sing You Home by American author Jodi Picoult.

It’s the first of the author’s books I’ve either read or listened to, having been spurred on to investigate after seeing her do the rounds of UK daytime TV shows while I was off work ill last month. I’m glad I did, because it’s a fascinating literary look at some contemporary issues that, while maybe not bringing too much to the table for someone who’s been aware of (and at times immersed in) LGBT politics for years, demonstrate to a wider audience just what’s at stake in allowing gay and lesbian couples the same rights that straight couples automatically enjoy.

Continue reading Sing You Home, by Jodi Picoult

Rauch on the realities of gay marriage in America

> Having just been told, at 3 a.m., that his partner of three decades might die within hours, Mike Brittenback was told something else: Before rushing to Bill’s side, he needed to collect and bring with him documents proving his medical power of attorney. This indignity, unheard-of in the world of heterosexual marriage, is a commonplace of American gay life. …
>
> … What happened in that hospital in Philadelphia for those six weeks was not just Mike and Bill’s business, a fact that is self-evident to any reasonable human being who hears the story. “Mike was making a medical decision at least once a day that would have serious consequences,” Bill told me. Who but a life partner would or could have done that? Who but a life partner will drop everything to provide constant care? Bill’s mother told me that if not for Mike, her son would have died. Faced with this reality, what kind of person, morally, simply turns away and offers silence?

The whole piece is at the National Journal Magazine website. Found via Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish. And Rauch’s book, Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America, is a similarly excellent read.

Two broadcasters who get it about the gay thing

After all the [Moyles](http://www.matthewman.net/articles/2006/06/06/the-bbc-governors-are-spastics) business, it’s nice to see two broadcasters (both straight) who get it.

First off, [Andrew Collins](http://www.wherediditallgoright.com/BLOG/2006/06/this-man-is-gay.html):

> But if it is expected to use gay as an insult, aren’t we just ever so slightly sliding backwards, semantically speaking? What if the word “black” became twisted in the playground to mean “rubbish” and that entered the adult lexicon? Is _that_ cool? Suppose “Northamptonian” became shorthand for “lame”. That’s _so_ Northamptonian! Would I care? I sort of would, even if the use of it didn’t actually injure me personally. I think I’d care in priniciple.
>
> I know, the English language evolves and mutates the whole time, and that is a wonderful thing, but I don’t think this matter is as cut and dried as the governors do. Surely it plays into the hands of those who think being gay actually is rubbish. I saw a documentary on Channel 4 the other night about a college in America for Christians who really do think it’s rubbish. They think it’s wrong and deviant and unnatural and dangerous. They must be rubbing their hands.

Bless him. I love Andrew Collins anyway (in a butch, platonic way, of course. Anything else would just be a little bit _moyles_). This almost makes up for him being a pundit on _Doctor Who Confidential_ when they should clearly have invited someone from _The Stage_ in his place :)

Secondly, Jon Stewart of America’s Daily Show, who laid into right-wing pundit Bill Bennett on the hypocrisy surrounding politicians hawking round anti-gay marriage amendments to shore up their fundamentalist bases:

> Stewart: So why not encourage gay people to join in in that family arrangement if that is what provides stability to a society?
>
> Bennett: Well I think if gay..gay people are already members of families…
>
> Stewart: What? (almost spitting out his drink)
>
> Bennett: They’re sons and they’re daughters..
>
> Stewart: So that’s where the buck stops, that’s the gay ceiling.
>
> Bennett Look, it’s a debate about whether you think marriage is between a man and a women.
>
> Stewart:I disagree, I think it’s a debate about whether you think gay people are part of the human condition or just a random fetish.

Thanks to [boingboing](http://www.boingboing.net/2006/06/07/jon_stewart_tears_op.html) for the link to [Crooks and Liars](http://www.crooksandliars.com/2006/06/07.html#a8614), which has downloadable video of the show segment.

Or, you can just watch it via [YouTube](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ru1M8VDpnAY):

If you’re part of the [72.5% of households with digital television](http://www.thestage.co.uk/tvtoday/2006/06/were_a_digital_nation_now.php), make sure you catch the Daily Show every weekday, 8:30pm on [More4](http://www.channel4.com/more4).

Civil partnerships: the fight’s not over

It’s been a long time coming, but it looks like we’re finally on the road to having legally recognised relationships between gay or lesbian couples.

The Government’s Women and Equality Unit, part of the Department of Trade and Industry, today unveiled its white paper, **Civil Partnership: A framework for the legal recognition of same-sex couples**. The consultation document outlines how the Government sees gay and lesbian couples’ rights being safeguarded and extended until they match those of married straight couples.

Under the proposals, which will affect England and Wales (with some knock-on effects in Scotland and Northern Ireland), couples would have to sign a civil partnership register, to be kept and maintained by the same council register offices that currently handle marriages. The bad news for anybody who’s signed one of the non-legally binding registers local councils have instigated around the country is that you’ll have to go through it all again: none of these registers will automatically get promoted to legal status. Which is a good thing, as there are so many rights and responsibilities attached to partnerships that we shouldn’t assume everybody who wanted to sign a decorative piece of paper would be happy signing one with strings attached. For those that do, however, there’ll be another license fee to pay.

The full document stretches to nearly 90 pages, and covers most of the common areas that we think of when discussing the disparities between married, straight couples and gay couples. But it also dispels some of the myths. For all the talk about ‘next-of-kin’ rights, particularly when one partner is taken ill, there is no such thing as the ‘next of kin’ in law. The paper notes that this causes much confusion, both for patients, their relatives and hospital staff. The Government are going to ensure guidance notes to NHS staff take account of same-sex relationships, but that’s not something that has to wait for a change in the law to take place.

Another issue the paper tackles head-on are people’s concerns that unmarried opposite-sex couples also have concerns over their own rights (the common perception of “common law”, like that of next of kin, being false). Quite correctly, in my view, it believes that the needs of unmarried couples, regardless of gender, are an entirely separate legal issue.

Whether it’s prison visiting rights, parental responsibility, or your rights should your partner die, basically if it’s available automatically to married couples, it will also be available to registered couples. The similarities extend to break-ups — dissolution of a civil partnership could end up as costly, both financially and emotionally, as divorce, and in exactly the same ways.

Indeed, most of the ramifications of a civil partnership scheme boil down to the same thing: money. If you and partner register your relationship, the state will assume that you pool your incomes and calculate benefit entitlements accordingly – just as they do for straight couples who marry.

One major difference will be in state pensions. Everything about this area of the law moves incredibly slowly. At the moment, current pension law is some of the most sexist legislation we have, dating back to the times when the husband went out and earned the pennies, while the wife stayed at home sprouting kids and cooking everybody’s dinner. Thankfully, that’s changing, but it means that gay and lesbian registered couples will only start achieving parity with married partners in 2010, with full equality across the board only achieved once state retirement ages equalise between men and women in 2020.

To all intents and purposes, the state will recognise you for what you probably already regard yourself – a family. Indeed, it’s incredibly gratifying to read the statement: **”The Government proposes that registered partners should be treated as a single family unit.”** None of this “pretended family relationship” nonsense that Section 28 tried to saddle us with: we’re real, we’re families. And about time, too.

* Originally published on [Gay.com UK](http://uk.gay.com/)