I would like members of the gay community to know that I want them to have the same rights that I have. They should be able to walk hand-in-hand with the one they love.
They should be able to have a ceremony, recognized in all 50 states, that gives them the right to visit their spouse in any hospital at any time; have their spouse, should they die without a will, inherit their estate automatically; and have their spouse, in the event of their death, be the surviving parent to their children.
All of us need to know that right now, as a nonrelative with no legal status, a person who is gay can be barred from visiting his or her hospitalized partner. Right now, if one of the couple adopts or has a child and dies, the survivor has no parental status and the child might go to a children and youth services agency.
Finally, if a person who is gay should die before making a will, that person's estate likely goes to the very parents or relatives who may have rejected the person.
It also would be good if we all realized that, far from threatening marriage, gay couples' desire for lifelong, vowed commitment actually strengthens it. With today's divorce rate, marriage needs all the help it can get.
JOAN HUBER BERARDINELLI