Thursday, February 26, 2004

Rosie Gets Married

The recent legal troubles of Rosie O'Donnell gave her, and should give us, a deeper understanding of why marriage rights are so important.

Would the media giant Gruner & Jahr have decided to sue Rosie O’Donnell over the downfall of Rosie magazine if same-sex marriage were legal? Bizarre as it might sound, Rosie believes the answer is no, and her explanation is both fascinating and plausible.

“If you are a heterosexual talk show host and you’re sued by a major corporation, anything you have said to your husband is privileged information,” she said in an interview on my radio program on Sirius OutQ. She was referring to two rights of marriage that few of us ever think about—until we’re sued for $100 million, or brought to court for something far more minor. One is the spousal immunity privilege, which, if you watch enough Law & Order or The Practice, you know means that, in general, a husband cannot be compelled to testify against his wife and vice versa. The other is known as the privilege for marital communications, which protects confidential correspondence between spouses. These are just two of hundreds of rights granted by marriage—rights that gay couples don’t have.

“If you are a homosexual talk show host,” O’Donnell continued, “and you’re sued by a corporation, anything you have ever said and/or written to your spouse/partner/wife is allowed to be entered into the record. It is totally unfair.”

She believes that Gruner & Jahr’s lawyers were well aware of that inequity and exploited it to their advantage.

“Any and every thing I wrote to [my partner] Kelli, you know, which they were using against me, some of my essays—you know, when you get into a deep, dark place and you say, ‘You know what honey, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.’ Well, if the honey is the same sex as you, that is evidence in a trial, and that’s hard to believe in America ... . And if they didn’t have access to some of those letters I wrote to Kelli, I don’t think they would have sued me. Because, innately, what they were thinking was that I would rather give them money than show the truth of my darkest part to America ... .”