Take a moment to embark on a journey, a quest of fear that may sever you from everything you know. Don't panic. Panicking won't save him anymore than it will help you. You need to be detached from all emotion or you may miss your chance. Here comes the doctor. Dry your tears, clear your mind, and choose your words carefully. They may be the last he will ever hear. The doctor approaches, but he does not focus on you. He looks around the room, asking to speak to the family of his invalid patient. You assert your presence, struggling to ignore the stinging sensation in your eyes. To your dismay, he dismisses you, claiming you are not kin of the dying man. You have no business here. Go home and wait for his real family to give you permission to return. You are stunned beyond words, a deluge of tears are your only response.
You beg the doctor to let you in, but your pleading is futile. Hours come and go, and at last his family arrives to help you. But they're too late. He passed silently away, without seeing you one last time. You were denied the right to say goodbye to the person you loved more than anyone else, your best friend and dearest companion with whom you've shared a lifetime, simply because the two of you were of the same sex and unmarried.
Marriage is an institution that provides American couples with tangible rewards in addition to a formalized _expression of love and commitment. Under civil law, marriage offers legal familial status, medical, property, and post-death benefits, as well as many others. More importantly, however, it bestows upon them the ability to exercise the privilege that accompanies being an American citizen: the privilege of uninhibited choice.