by the Rev. Eugene B. Navias
Associate Minister Emeritus, Arlington Street Church, Boston
October 23, 2003
I am the Rev. Eugene Navias, a retired minister. I am seventy five years old. I have been an ordained minister for fifty-two years. And I am gay.
My long term partner, Stanley, died of cancer and as he wished, he died in our home and in my arms.
I know a lot from personal experience about the lack of equal rights for gay, lesbian and bisexual couples.
In these precious minutes, I will tell you about what happened to my ministerial colleague and friend, the Rev. Robert Wheatley. Nine months ago at 83, Bob had a massive heart attack in the night and was dead on arrival when the ambulance brought him and his partner, Kenneth, to Mount Auburn Hospital.
“Who are you?,” the hospital demanded when Kenneth presented himself. “I’m his life partner,” Kenneth said. “You have no status,” they told him. “We need the name of a relative to identify him and give us directions for what to do with his body.”
“I’ve been with him for 52 years,” Kenneth replied. “He has no living relatives.” “Prove it,” the hospital staffer responded. “He wanted to be cremated,” Kenneth said.
“You have no power to authorize his cremation. You may be wanting to cover up evidence about his death. We’ll put his body in the morgue until we get some reliable direction.”
Kenneth was grief stricken and distraught when he called me at 7 a.m. to tell me what had happened. I found a lawyer to help him, but there was not a lot of help to be found. Bob had never given Kenneth power of attorney, made out a medical proxy, or any other legal document. His will was inadequate to express his request for cremation. Kenneth called a crematorium which said they couldn’t pick up the body until it was released by the hospital. The hospital would not release the body. Every day Kenneth went to the hospital or called it . NO, they would not release Bob’s body. Every day and several times a day Kenneth called me, grieving over the fact that as he said “Bob’s body is still lying on a cold slab.” This went on day after day for over a week until the hospital gave in. They didn’t want the body there any more and they were willing to bend the rules.
You see, you have no rights unless you have equal marriage. No hospital visitation rights, no medical directive rights, no insurance rights, no equal inheritance rights, no equal Social Security benefits, no IRS deductions, no vital rights. Your partner, your commitment, your relationship is legally worthless.
I believe that society is strengthened the more committed family groups it has, that state and nation are strengthened the more they affirm loving consensual relationships, the more they encourage people to live together in ways which further hope, share and grow faith, and kindle responsible love.
I do believe that equal marriage would aid not only countless lesbigay people, but also it would aid the welfare of our so distressed society. I want to be able to perform such marriages. I want to have the right to have such a marriage for myself even at my age.
Thank you for listening. May you act in the cause of equality.