Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lesbian Advocate Dies In Stage Collapse, DOMA Then Rears Its Ugly Head

UPDATE:  Turns out this story just isn't true.  Click on over to my retraction and apology.

This is a sick and sad illustration of why DOMA has to go.

The blogosphere has been in mourning for days at the news that LGBT advocate Christina Santiago, manager of programming for the Lesbian Community Care Project at Chicago's Howard Brown Health Center, died in the collapse of a stage at the Indiana State Fair during a storm.  A freak gust of wind toppled the stage while they were waiting for a Sugarland concert, killing five and injuring many others.

Santiago and her partner, Alisha Brennon, had chosen to take advantage of Cook County's legalization of civil unions and had a ceremony planned for September of 2012.  Unfortunately, Brennon, who was injured in the accident, is keenly feeling the lack of any legal rights in her relationship with Santiago, as the coroner's office is now refusing to release her remains to Brannon.  Why?

You've guessed it.  The Defense of Marriage Act.

The Marion County coroner's office is refusing to release Santiago's body to her partner; the office cited the Defense of Marriage Act as the reason why they've turned down Brennon's request to pick up her loved one's remains. DOMA allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. 
Indiana has its own version of DOMA that outlaws same-sex marriage. Since Indiana law requires the next-of-kin to pick up Santiago's body, but the state won't recognize Brennon as the surviving spouse, Santiago's body is still laying in the morgue awaiting a solution. Brennon, who is still hospitalized, is now working with Santiago's aunt to pick up the body and make funeral arrangements.
This is worse than sad, it's disgusting.  Brennon is injured and grieving for the loss of the love of her life, and the state of Indiana is kicking her where it counts just in order to assert its right to discriminate against gay relationships.  I may have shed an angry tear over this one.


  1. Looking forward, DOMA and discrimination will continue to show up. For example, there was likely some sort of construction defect in the stage which caused the collapse. While the families of others killed have legal recourse, Alisha does not. If a wrongful death/survival action (whatever that state calls it) is brought, Alisha cannot participate or recover the proceeds.

    Of course, not releasing her body is a larger blow than any financial issue, but the economic issues are all that the right wingers seem to care about.

  2. stories like this makes me mad as hell, and almost yelling out my window that i'm not gonna take it any more. with this kind of prejudice by the state in place, the only thing that'll eradicate it is more paper. we used to put glitter in envelopes and send them to the right(eous) basturds.

  3. I personally can't wait for the inequality of the system. I think the world needs to realize that DOMA needs to go away and ENDA needs to be put in place. The only way, unfortunately, for that to happen is for the discrimination to take place.

  4. I'm not so sure that she can't still sue for losses, married or not. But I see your point.

    Meanwhile, yes, this is pure bullshit. It was bad enough in the early days of AIDS, but in 2011? THIS is reason to riot, to take whatever action proves necessary to be taken seriously, to be recognized as an equal human being.