Being Betsy

Much has already been written about what happened Wednesday in Miami at the first hearing on marriage equality in Florida: the brilliance of our legal team's arguments challenging Florida's discriminatory ban on marriage for same-sex couples, the poise and dignity of our wonderful plaintiff couples, the energy and enthusiasm of the supporters who cheered and chanted for hours outside the courthouse, the lame and sometimes ridiculous defense of the ban, the preparedness of our judge.

The story I'd like to tell started after court was over for the day, after all the celebrating had concluded, and when all the reporters had filed their stories for the night. It is about one woman's courage and the quality which to me marks us as most uniquely human – the ability to make delicious lemonade when life hands us sour lemons.  It is about being Betsy.

But first a little background:  Betsy drove over two hours to be in the courthouse in downtown Miami that rainy day. Like many of us she felt compelled to be close to where the arguments would be heard and the decisions made that will impact us all so soon. Like many of us she brought her iPad with her, so she could get some work done. And, like many of us, she was less productive than she had hoped; but that is another story.

Following the hearing and the press conference, Betsy was invited to join a group of Equality Florida staff, the legal team, our plaintiff couples, and a few close supporters in a small basement jazz club which had been chosen for debriefing, decompressing, celebrating and plain old togetherness.

After an hour of basking in the cautiously optimistic glow of this inner circle, she returned alone in the dusk to the nearby parking lot. Her car's window was smashed and broken, and the shoulder bag that held her laptop, iPad, and wallet--was gone. The rest of the group had already left Le Chat Noir and they did not immediately respond to her calls. The police came and filed a report. Nothing was left for her to do but shed a few tears, and make the seemingly much longer return trip to her home in Tavernier where her wife, Holly awaited.

When I finally spoke with Betsy she was still driving along the overseas Highway, wind coursing through the broken window.  She had already begun the process of rebuilding her composure. She said, "It's okay, we have homeowners insurance; everything will be replaced. I would do it again to be part of this wonderful day." That's our Betsy.

The next day, on Facebook, I read that she had been informed by the insurance company that their homeowner's policy was in Holly's name, and that even tho' their marriage is legal in other states and recognized federally it is not recognized here in Florida and that therefore she was not covered for her losses. The insurance agent suggested that Betsy get renter's insurance!

It would be fair to say that Facebook blew up right around the time I read that. Banker's insurance may have received a few phone calls, a few emails that night.  A dialogue began that included insurance agents, activists, and people negatively impacted by double-dealing companies that have the choice of whether to honor same-sex marriages regardless of what the state of Florida does, or to add insult to injury.

Betsy stressed that her concern is not about the money or about being reimbursed for her lost equipment. It's about the slap in the face of being told that her marriage is not recognized and that according to the law of the insurance company, she is no more than a renter in her own home.

"How ironic," she said, "to one minute be part of the ennobling process of changing the law and of feeling how close we are to achieving equality, and in the next to be told I need to get a renter's policy in addition to my wife's homeowner's policy to be fully covered!"

There is another marriage equality court case that will be heard in Tavernier on Monday, July 7, involving a wonderful couple, Aaron Huntsman and Lee Jones. Due to other responsibilities and commitments I did not think it would be possible to attend. But Betsy wouldn't miss it.  

Let's just say that what happened to Betsy in the 24 hours following the court case in Miami has galvanized me. It's not the break-in and the burglary so much as watching as the rug was pulled out from under her.  And that Banker's Insurance, instead of providing the services paid for--of protection and assistance in time of need, is profiting by hiding behind a legal loophole, while at the same time delivering the message, "your marriage is not as good as that of an opposite-sex couple."  Let's just say that Betsy's decision, especially under the circumstances--or maybe because of them, to remain dignified, proud, and resolved to represent same-sex couples before the law, her community, and the world that watches these proceedings, has inspired me, too.

Tavernier, here I come!

Marriage equality and full equality, here YOU come! Banker's Insurance, call me.  You have about a minute to get on the right side of history, and if I hear the words "industry standards" I might have a fit.  Seriously, call me; we are here to help you, just as soon as you realize you want to do the right thing.  Betsy Keteltas, you just keep being Betsy!  and let's go make some lemonade!

For everyone who has had the rug pulled out, or been slapped across the face by those you trusted--this road trip is for you!!


October 2010

May 2010

October 2009

July 2009

June 2009

May 2009

April 2009