Please Approve Referendum 71.

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Last fall, I was dancing at a friends wedding on Vashon Island. As darkness settled in, a string of paper lanterns was turned on, and I discovered that looking at the soft glow of the lanterns produced an intense pain in my right eye. The light sensitivity was nearly unbearable the following morning, and shooting pains had begun to radiate back into my skull. I tried to grin and bear it for a day or two, assuming I’d rubbed my eye too hard and bruised something.

When the pain continued to intensify, I called Group Health’s consulting nurse. The nurse took down my symptoms, then ordered me to be seen immediately. I got on the bus, and was sitting in an optometrist’s chair within two hours. They diagnosed me with Iritis, an autoimmune disease that results in an inflammation of the iris.

I’d never heard of it before. Turns out, its the 3rd leading cause of preventable blindness in the developed world. Left untreated, the inflamed iris can swell until it permanently fuses with the cornea.

Fun stuff.

They dialated my right eye until it looked like a shark’s eye (not kidding) and kept it that way for over a week.

Shark Eye.

Shark Eye.

Any time with my eyes open made me nauseous. (Contact lens wearers: try spending seven days in a row with only one contact lens in.) I was ordered to put steroid drops in every thirty minutes, then gradually phase off the drops when they deemed safe.

At the end of it all, I’d came out unscathed, with no permanent damage to my eye.

Nine months later, I ended up in the hospital again, with the same symptoms. This time, three different doctors misdiagnosed me, even though I told them my symptoms matched my last bout with iritis. After an emergency room visit on the fourth of July, I was finally referred to a specialist in degenerative eye disorders, who immediately diagnosed me and quadrupled the prescription other eye doctors had given me. I spent the entire month of my honeymoon in India putting in twelve steroid drops a day, and I will continue putting in one a day until November.

Two weeks prior to my first bout with iritis, I lost my health insurance from Basic Health of Washington. I was making too much money waitressing to qualify. Within a few more weeks, the economy would begin to crash into recession, and thousands more people would be dropped from the state healthcare system rolls.

Washington State’s Domestic Partnership law enabled my partner Ryan to add me to his insurance. It wasn’t cheap… over three-hundred dollars a month would be deducted from his teacher’s salary to cover my healthcare. I protested, worried we couldn’t afford it.

He insisted we go ahead, and after he threatened to make me call my parents to tell them I was willingly going without insurance, I acceded.

In all likelihood, that decision—and the domestic partnership law that gave Ryan the right to add me to his healthcare plan—-saved my vision in my right eye.

Ryan and I are just starting out.

at our wedding in June, 2009

Neither of us has much extra money laying around. Certainly not five hundred dollars or so to walk into the Emergency Room—not unless the situation is desperate. Had I been uninsured, I would have waited until I could no longer tolerate the pain in my eye before I sought medical attention. Chances are good I would have been misdiagnosed in the emergency room, or been prescribed the wrong quantity of eyedrops. Unable to afford follow-up care, I would have suffered further damage to my vision.

The domestic partnership law helped save my eyesight, at the age of 28.

Wait, you say, that’s you in your “wedding picture.” You don’t need the domestic partnership law anymore, right? You’re married, so you’re automatically entitled to coverage under your husband’s plan.

Yes, we got married in June, in the eyes of our family and friends, and the holiest people we know. Not, however, in the eyes of the state.

Too many of our friends and thousands of people we haven’t met yet are unable to marry the person they love. They are denied the right, legally, to take care of the person they’ve committed their lives to, by providing them access to health care, or comforting them in intensive care. Other people have deemed it their moral right to dictate who is entitled to love whom, and take care of whom.

We do not accept this reality and we refuse to tolerate it. Which is why we had a really beautiful wedding, committed to each other in the presence of everyone we care about, and never signed a single paper. We call ourselves married. Ryan is my husband, and I am his wife. We wear rings. And we are provided the legal rights of a “traditionally” married couple by the domestic partnership law.

A lot of people think that law threatens “the sanctity of marriage,” or the “integrity of the family.” These people gathered signatures to initiate a challenge to the domestic partnership law. 4000 of the signatures they gathered were judged to be of questionable validity, but the challenge to the domestic partnership law was allowed on the ballot.

Washington State law mandates that when a measure already signed into law is put up for a referendum, voters vote either “approved” to confirm the law or “rejected” to oppose it. Thus, although the petition to put this law to a vote was circulated by its opponents, the ballot wording is such that voters vote in the affirmative to approve the law or in the negative to reject it.

A little confusing, eh? Which is what the opponents of domestic partnership benefits are banking on.

If you vote to approve Referendum 71, you will be voting to PRESERVE domestic parnership rights in Washington state. (The rights that helped save my vision.) IF you vote to reject Referendum 71, you will OVERTURN domestic partnership benefits in Washington state, causing me to loose my health insurance.

Ryan and I are privileged. If that happens, we have the right to go to the courthouse, get legally married and rescue my health care. A lot of people we love and respect are denied access to that privilege.

Please take a moment to shelve your dogmas, your slogans, your culture wars, your ideologies, and your biases (on both sides of the aisle.)

This is the bottom line, as I see it (out of two seeing eyes):

If People Love Each Other, Let Them Take Care of Each Other.

VOTE YES on Referendum 71.

Here’s the dates you need to know:
October 5, 2009 (TOMMORROW): Mail-in and online voter registrations and transfers deadline
Seattlites: go to http://www.kingcounty.gov/elections/elections/200911.aspx

October 14, 2009
Ballots mailed to voters. As soon as you get it, mark it and mail it back.

YOUR BALLOT MUST BE POSTMARKED BY 3 NOVEMBER 2009 OR IT IS INVALID!

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4 Comments

Filed under healthcare, marriage, politrix

4 responses to “Please Approve Referendum 71.

  1. Lindsey Durant

    Sarah,

    Thank you for your thoughtful insight on Ref. 71. I appreciate your experience and will be mailing in my ballot the day after I receive it. So will my partner, Ryan. Hope to see you and your Ryan sometime soon in W. Seattle? Glad to see you are well.

  2. Chelon

    Sarah
    Thank you for writing on this and helping to give the personal slant that is hard for many people to see the issue with..
    Made me tear up.
    Going to share it!

  3. Brigetmulling

    What a beautiful post. Not everyone has the conviction to stand up for equality if it means giving up some comfort/protection. Best wishes to you!!

  4. sarahalisabethfox

    So, an addendum, months later. Ref. 71 passed, upholding Washington’s domestic partnership law and protecting thousands of couples! Thanks to everyone for their vote and support. I was wrong on a factual point in this essay and I feel compelled to correct it, although my error does not affect the general spirit of the piece. When I wrote it, I was under the impression that Ryan was legally enabled to add me to his health insurance under the state domestic partnership law. In actuality, as a mixed-sex couple under the age of sixty, we do not qualify for domestic partnership under state law, precisely because marriage is available to us. It was Ryan’s employer, a school district, that deemed us legally recognizable as domestic partners, and it was to their lawyers that we submitted the paperwork. Not everyone is so lucky as we are, to have this opportunity! The underlying point of my essay was that domestic partnership laws allow people to help take care of the people they love, which I feel only strengthens the spirit of marriage, not threatens it. I believe that this point stands in spite of my factual error! Respectfully, Sarah

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