26 January 2011

Oath of Allegiance

I recently accepted a job as an adjunct professor at a New Jersey state school. When Human Resources sent me a packet of forms, I discovered that I will be asked to take an Oath of Allegiance. This Oath applies to “any and all persons who are elected or appointed by the Board of Trustees, or who are employed in teaching positions” by institutions which receive public funds. The Oath must be notarized, and is as follows:

“I, [Name], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of New Jersey, and that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same and to the Governments established in the United States and in this State, under the authority of the people. So help me God.”

I’m an upstanding citizen and there is hardly anyone who is more loyal than I am, but I have an objection.

I’m happy to uphold our Constitution, but I also ask that my Constitution uphold ME. I am not allowed to marry my wonderful girlfriend Mia in her home state of New Jersey. There are five other states and the District of Columbia which would allow our wedding to take place on their soil, but even if this were to occur, the United States itself would not recognize the marriage at the federal level.

Justice Antonin Scalia of the US Supreme Court does not believe that the Constitution grants equal protections to women, or to gays. (You can read the full interview here). This is frightening to me, especially were we to see Prop 8 or other legislation go before the Court in coming years.

The New York Times estimated in 2009 that gay American couples, over the course of a lifetime, pay an extra $41,196 to $467,562 over and above heterosexual couples. (!) This “gay penalty” is due almost entirely to the federal ban on gay marriage, which not only demands that gays incur extra costs, such as the required filing of separate tax returns and the taxing of spousal health benefits as income (where gays may be considered domestic partners/spouses and allowed this benefit at all), but also requires the denial of certain benefits which are matter-of-factly provided to straight married couples. These include the denial of retirement and Social Security benefits, pensions, and the inability to contribute to spousal retirement accounts. There are others, and you can read the entire article here.

It’s one thing to be aware that injustice exists, but to be asked to give my solemn approval of it in this way, for the sake of a part-time job, is really troubling me.

- Maura McGurk

Maura makes artwork about these and other issues related to gay rights. You can see more of her paintings here.

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