7 gay couples celebrate 'marriage' Participants decry setbacks for spousal rights in House, at UM

July 14, 1996|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

One day after the U.S. House of Representatives and the University of Maryland System rebuffed efforts by homosexuals to obtain spousal benefits, seven gay and lesbian couples held a "celebration of marriage" in Baltimore last night -- complete with wedding cake, champagne toasts and television news cameras.

"We will strive to live our lives together with zest and joy," the couples vowed in unison. "We call upon the power of love each and every day to sustain our commitment."

The couples said they hoped to show that they are similar to heterosexual couples and therefore are entitled to the same insurance benefits, tax benefits and other spousal rights.

"We live as family. We should be able to claim [benefits] as a family," said Lynn Creamer, 34, who lives with fellow Baltimore native Jennifer Wild.

That wasn't the sentiment expressed Friday by national and state officials.

In Washington, the House voted 342-67 to define marriage as heterosexual unions only and to limit marriage rights for gay men and lesbians.

In College Park, the University of Maryland regents voted down a proposal to extend full benefits to the domestic partners of professors and staff members.

Yesterday, state Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr., a Woodlawn Democrat, vowed to continue fighting any effort to extend such benefits statewide.

"I'm not homophobic," Burns said in an interview. "I have no animosity toward them. I would say go forward and make love -- in private. But don't go down to the courthouse and ask for a license for public approval of your relationship."

Recent polls have found that as many as seven in 10 Americans oppose marriage rights for homosexuals.

But the couples who took part in yesterday's celebration at the Hippopotamus nightclub said they are tired of the same refrain: It's OK to be gay or lesbian -- even to call yourselves married. You just can't have marriage benefits.

To treat their relationships differently, the couples said, is to be prejudiced against homosexuality.

"They're talking in riddles, that's what they're doing," said Mary Thomas, who works for a local utility and supports her partner, Pamela Pierce, and Pierce's 10-year-old son.

Thomas said she can extend health insurance coverage to Pierce's son but cannot do so for Pierce. She said she realizes that some people cringe when they hear the two women are raising a child.

"I can handle that flak," said Thomas, who lives next door to her mother in Rosedale. "You couldn't find a son being raised by two better people. I don't think they can do any better than we are.

"He's your normal 10-year-old boy," she said. "All mouth."

The couples said their effort to obtain spousal benefits is constantly hurt by attention given to what they call the fringe elements of the homosexual community, such as people who pop up on the nightly news wearing skimpy leather outfits.

"The media zooms in on all this far-out, funky stuff," Wild said.

Wild said she and Creamer have considered themselves married since November, when about 80 family members and friends came to a ceremony they held at a local Teamsters hall.

R. David Smith, the pastor of Metropolitan Community Church, who blessed the ceremony, said more people would accept such unions if they realized that most homosexual couples are like him and his partner.

"We've been to one bar in the last three months," he said. "It's home by 8, with dinner in front of the television."

Smith said he had two reactions to Friday's votes in Congress and at UM: "You're angry, but underneath that you're hurt."

He also criticized President Clinton for what he called caving in to political pressures and saying he would sign legislation to deny benefits for homosexual couples.

But last night was one of happiness for David Parker, 21, and Gabriel Saavedra, 33. They wanted to declare publicly that they plan to spend their lives together.

Parker said he is tired of hearing that sanctioning homosexual marriages would lead to the sanctioning of polygamy and BTC marriages between adults and children.

"We're talking about long-term, monogamous relationships between adults," Parker said. "What part of this don't people understand?"

Just before heading to the dance floor with Pierce, Thomas said, "We know neither one of us is going anywhere."

Pub Date: 7/14/96

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