Marriage equality activist Ed Watson has died — before he could legally marry his husband

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.

Ed Watson, left, and Derence Kerneck

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.

—  admin

We don’t all have the luxury of time

The American Foundation for Equal Rights, the organization behind the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8, has asked the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to lift its injunction and allow legal same-sex marriages to resume in California as the lawsuit moves through the appeals process.

As you probably remember, early last year federal District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Prop 8 — an amendment to the California Constitution approved in a 2008 voter referendum — violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection. California state officials said they would not appeal the ruling because they, too, believed Prop 8 to be unconstitutional. But the folks who backed the amendment in the first place and who were the only ones to try to defend it in Walker’s court, did appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit, which issued an injunction that is keeping same-sex marriages from resuming under Walker’s ruling. But in addition, the 9th Circuit, unsure whether the Prop 8 supporters even have legal standing to appeal, have asked the California Supreme Court to weigh in on the question of standing.

And therein lies the problem. The California Supreme Court justices have said they will issue an opinion on standing, but they aren’t in any hurry to do it. In fact, they don’t plan to issue any decisions until sometime after the summer.

And that just isn’t soon enough for some people, and that’s why AFER is asking the 9th Circuit to lift the injunction.  We don’t all have the luxury of time, and that includes 78-year-old Ed Watson of Palm Springs.

Watson has joined in Courage Campaign’s efforts to get the injunction lifted by writing this letter and making the video above. I think he says it all:

“Yesterday, I found out the California Supreme Court denied a motion to speed up the Prop 8 trial. They’re going to take their summer recess and come back in around 6 months or so. It must be nice for them.

“The thing is, I am 78 years old, and I have Alzheimer’s disease. I have been with my partner, Derence, for over 40 years. And if the courts drag this out for months and months, I fear I will, God forbid, lose the ability to recognize my beloved Derence when he gets on his knee to propose to me.

“I can’t afford that, and Derence deserves better. That’s why I agreed to be named in Courage Campaign’s amicus curiae letter to the 9th Circuit, asking that the stay be lifted so I can at least have my dignity on our wedding day.

“Please watch this video of my and my partner Derence, then co-sign our letter to the 9th Circuit, begging them to lift the stay while the California Supreme Court drags its feet.

“If the California Supreme Court is going to take its time, then we deserve the dignity of marriage … before I can’t remember what marriage is.”

“Humbly, Ed Watson, Palm Springs, CA.”

—  admin