While I realize that Delaware’s civil union legislation only legally impacts Delaware state agencies and programs, I hope it might show intent when dealing with federal institutions like the Veterans Administration.
A year ago Bonnie needed knee surgery at Penn in Philly. She was prepped and already wearing her little paper hat when staff discovered missing paperwork from the VA.
“Just go over there,” Bonnie told me. “It’s only a few blocks away.”
“Wait,” a nurse said. “You better take Bonnie’s Medical Power of Attorney and financial responsibility documents, and maybe we should all sign something telling them you’re allowed to get the information. You know, privacy rules.”
“I do know,” I said. “We’re not considered legally married despite our Canadian wedding documents, silver anniversary status or the fact that we’ve lived together so long we’re starting to look alike.”
Whereupon no less than six doctors and nurses—all held up by the snafu—autographed a note pleading for me to be considered next of kin.
Voluminous legal dossier in hand, I raced to the lobby and hopped a cab to the Veteran’s Hospital. I’ll spare you the exasperating particulars, but I was shuttled to three offices, and in each, made to plead for the right to access information staff would have forked over instantly to Britney Spears’ husband had this happened to her during their 11-minute marriage. As they continued to quiz me about my information worthiness, all I could picture was the gaggle of expensive health care workers loitering at Bonnie’s bedside.
Finally somebody agreed to make a phone call to set things right. Heart pounding, I raced downstairs to find a shuttle bus outside.
“Do you go by Penn Presbyterian?” I asked the bus driver.
“Yep. It’s for the vets. Are you a vet?”
“I’m the spouse of a vet.”
“What’s his name?”
“It’s a her.”
What was I thinking? Toto, we’re not in Rehoboth.
“Then you can’t be no spouse,” the driver shouted, slamming the door in my face.
Now I can, at least in Delaware. And besides being happy about the paperwork reduction, I’m thrilled about the huge economic boom civil unions will provide our state. There’s a whole population with deferred wedding plans just waiting to spring for caterers, florists and photographers.
Of course, the U.S. government is still not with the program, leaving about a thousand marital privileges, like inheritance rights, tax advantages and social security off the table for us. But in the meantime, we are civilly unionized, registering at Crate and Barrel and happy we’re in Delaware … today.