For My Wife starts with a nightmare no one would want to face. A woman is alone at home and the rain is pouring down. Water starts to leak into the house, so she goes down to her basement study to retrieve some items she didn’t want to lose. The rain pours down the stairs of the house, trapping her in her basement. She calls her significant other (SO), reports that the water is up to her waist, and asks for help. Arriving, the SO cannot open the door, and is soon underwater.
Firemen arrive in answer to the woman’s 911 call and cannot get the door to the office open. Instead they take chainsaws to the floor, and pull her out of the basement, then rush her to the hospital. Her SO is not allowed to ride in the ambulance with her because she is a woman. When the woman (Kathryn “Kate” Fleming) is admitted to the hospital, her partner (Charlene Strong) is not allowed to visit her as she lay dying. Instead, a cross-country call is made to Kate’s sister who gives permission for Charlene to enter her room. Kate died soon after.
An insensitive funeral home director would not acknowledge Charlene (other than to tell her she had no rights) or her input when he met with Kate’s mother. However, he had no problem accepting Charlene’s credit card.
A month later, Charlene testified to these events in front of the Washington State Senate. For My Wife chronicles her evolution into an activist for marriage equality–people in committed relationships should have the same rights as married people.
From a simple humanistic standpoint, it doesn’t make sense that red tape should interfere with who holds your hand when you are dying. Imagine having an awful, dysfunctional family but a best friend who has always been there for you from childhood. According to law, your abusive father or abandoning mother has the right to be with you (if you’re hospitalized) but your best friend (or fiancé, or domestic partner) does not.
Charlene Strong’s is an empowering story. It’s the story of a woman who experienced a wrong and decided that no one else should experience it. She helped expand Washington’s Domestic Partnership law, and met with President Obama at a White House reception for Pride Month.
People don’t realize how their relationships are subject to legislation (and society’s biases) until they are least prepared to find out. For My Wife is a thought-provoking examination of issues surrounding gay/lesbian rights. In some ways it’s “preaching to the choir,” for most people who watch it are probably already sympathetic to the cause. It is not an exercise in rhetoric; instead, it puts a human face on unfair conditions.
Gloria Steinem appears in both For My Wife and in an extra feature discussing marriage equality. Other extras include a trailer, a video podcast in which Strong is interviewed about becoming an activist, “Meet the Filmmakers,” and “My Reclamation” video by Sam Harris.
Bottom Line: Would I buy/rent/stream For My Wife? Yes, and I suggest that anyone who claims to care about people should watch it, no matter what their politics are.