All that Ed Watson wanted was to see the courts overturn Proposition 8 so that he could legally marry his partner of 40 years before his Alzheimer’s robbed him of the ability to remember his wedding. But Watson died last week, at age 78, as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals continues to consider arguments in the lawsuit against the California constitutional amendment that robbed same-sex couples of the right to wed.
Watson and his partner, Derence Kerneck, met more than 40 years ago on the campus of Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, and have “been together ever since, happy, devoted and dearly in love,” Kerneck said in a video to couple made earlier this year for the Courage Campaign Institute (watch it below), urging the 9th Circuit Court to uphold Judge Vaughn Walker‘s trial court ruling overturning Prop 8 and to lift the stay placed on Walker’s ruling so that they could get married.
At the time they made the video last spring, Watson had just recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and it was, Kerneck said at the time, advancing rapidly. He explained that they wanted to have their service while Watson could still remember “the service and remember the commitments and the enduring love. It’s difficult because every day that goes by, you don’t know how many good days there are left. Already there are more bad days than there are good days.”
Unfortunately, the stay of Walker’s ruling remained in place, leaving Watson and Kerneck in an ever-worsening situation, especially financially since, because they were not legally married, Kerneck’s retirement insurance wouldn’t cover Watson’s medical expenses. Now, it is too late.
I believe that we will, eventually, win the battle for marriage equality, and that our relationships will soon be legally recognized. But no matter when that happens, it will be too late — and not just for Ed Watson and Derence Kerneck. There are hundreds — thousands — of loving couples out there who are denied hundreds of basic rights and privileges they deserve every day: those who die of treatable diseases because their partners’ insurance wouldn’t cover them, those who lose their homes and savings to inheritance taxes after a partner dies, those who lose children to anti-gay laws, those who are not allowed into hospitals to see their dying loved ones one last time.
It’s already too late for so many. But we will keep fighting, because there are more of us out there. We will keep fighting until we win. And when we win, we have to remember those like Ed Watson and Derence Kerneck who helped make the victory possible, but did not live long enough to enjoy the victory.