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The Communicator NEWS & POLITICS

What’s in a Name?


Photo credit: Sean O'Leary

Written by: Communicator StaffSeptember 11, 2014

Lynn Kies

In October 2012, eighteen year old Nikki Arroyo enlisted herself into The United States Navy. Upon signing her name on the dotted line, she obliged to serve her country.  This included the possibility of death. While she agreed to fight for the freedom and the rights for the people of this great nation, if her life were to be taken while serving her military position, her loss of life wouldn’t have been treated equally as those who have lost their lives prior.

This is because Arroyo, an individual who was willing to serve and potentially give her life for this country and its people, is an individual herself who is denied seemingly simple basic rights. Arroyo is denied the right to marry whom she chooses to share the rest of her life with. She is denied the basic entities of what a marriage has to offer. Arroyo, because she is not a heterosexual individual, is denied the benefits one legally obtains from a legal marriage.

This includes: spousal inheritance, receiving spousal benefits from social security, medicare and disability, obtaining insurance benefits through spousal employers, taking family leave to take care of one’s spouse due to illness, the benefit of consenting to after-death examinations, filing for joint adoption, receiving equitable division of property if one [separates]. Nikki Arroyo does not have the legal right to visit her significant other in the hospital if her “spouse” were on life support and dying. However, Nikki Arroyo can die for her country so other individuals who can get legally married can visit their spouses upon their death beds.

To get married was something Arroyo had a great desire to pursue since she was young. Marriage itself has a different context from person to person. For Arroyo, “Getting married means to me that I actually WANT to spend my life with you. I made a promise and this marriage is me making good on it.” While individuals who pursue their first amendment rights of religious freedom insinuate that same-sex couples are imposing on their religious rights, Arroyo highlights that “It doesn’t matter. Their religious rights are imposing upon my civil ones.” Heterosexual individuals who do not identify with a religious background are not denied the right to legally be married. “When we let religious people dictate our laws, that is how we know that we have seriously crossed the line and have to find a way back to freedom ASAP,” Arroyo said.

While Indiana itself has been in the hot seat over the past year due to the fact the ban on same-sex marriages existed, on Sept. 4, 2014, a federal appeals court declared the ban on same-sex marriages to be unconstitutional.

But why marriage? The word marriage itself, as many would defend, is defined as a man and woman. Two individuals of the same gender could just as easily be together and have all the same rights as a married heterosexual couple but define their unity with a different word. Many persons have put forth the argument that Civil Union would be both more appropriate and more acceptable. The dictionary clearly defines a Civil Union as a legally recognized union of a same-sex couple, with rights similar to those of marriage. As individuals in same-sex relationships are often asked whether a Civil Union would be satisfactory instead of the term “marriage” Arroyo doesn’t believe so.

“As people, all we are asking is that it be legal for us to get married. All we want is to actually see the separation between state and religion. It should not be fair that we be handed a Civil Union to appease us and those who oppose to gay marriage. It is not fair that straight people get to decide what we do in our personal lives. I would rather not get married than settle for a Civil Union,” Arroyo said.

In Romeo and Juliet, Juliet proposes “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” If the metaphor for a rose were to represent what we define as a marriage, then as some would suggest, it shouldn’t matter what word we use to describe a unity between two individuals. But as student Jack Cantey points out “Names and labels are funny things — they simultaneously mean nothing and everything.”

In 2012, Arroyo made the decision to enlist. Being a homosexual individual did not make her any less capable of serving our country. But like so many homosexual couples in our nation today, it does hinder the rights of spouses not legally recognized by the states. Individuals who have been together for years and decades of their lives in committed, but not legally recognized relationships could have everything, including the ability to say goodbye for the last time, taken from them in an instant.

When asked if Arroyo was a human being, she said “no.”