OUT and About – DOMA’s Effects on Boston’s Same-Sex Couples

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Equality BostonYou’ve seen them on your Facebook newsfeed and all over the web this past week – those little red squares with the pink equal signs, accompanied by tweets and status updates in support of equal marriage rights for all.

In this week’s OUT and About, learn why half your Facebook friends have changed their profile pictures, and more importantly how the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act will affect all pre-existing and future same-sex marriages in Massachusetts.

In 2003, Massachusetts upheld its revolutionary reputation by being the first state to grant the right of marriage to same-sex couples; in doing so, the state government granted these couples the rights and benefits that opposite-sex couples enjoy, such as health benefits and hospital visiting privileges for spouses.

What complicates this situation is an act passed seven years prior to our state’s groundbreaking legislation. In 1996, president Bill Clinton (yes, Hillary’s husband) signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which asserts that the federal government recognizes marriage only as a union between a man and a woman. The effect is that the same-sex spouses in Beantown today are not granted the federal marriage rights that heterosexual couples have. The Globe notes, “they cannot take family medical leave, collect Social Security benefits, or avoid an estate tax upon a spouse’s death.” In fact, gay and lesbian couples are denied access to a staggering 1,138 federal laws according to GLAD.

On March 27th, 2013, the Supreme Court heard arguments for and against the constitutionality of DOMA, and while their official decision on the matter won’t be passed down until June, many are already speculating on the results of this monumental case and what they will mean for the future of marriage equality.

Here are the three possible outcomes as Forbes sees them:

  1. The constitutionality of DOMA is upheld. Highly unlikely and undesirable. Look to options 2 and 3.
  2. SCOTUS can deny standing. This is basically the Justices’ way of saying, “What, what, what are you doing?” to the House Republicans and the Obama administration for their handling of the ordeal. The Nine would defer to the ruling of a lower court, which did in fact declare DOMA unconstitutional; while this may sound like a victory, it still leaves some gray areas, and gray is such an ugly color.
  3. DOMA is declared unconstitutional.

Let’s cross our fingers for option #3. What it would mean for Beantown same-sex couples is access to those 1,138 federal rights for married folk in addition to those already granted to them by Massachusetts. They would enjoy full equality under both state and federal law. One thing would remain problematic, however: if a couple decides to move to another state, their union may not be recognized as official – or even legal, but who wants to live in Montana, anyway?

For now, LGBTQ married life proceeds as usual in the Hub as we anticipate equal rights on the federal level. While we await the decision of the Supreme Court, there are many ways to remain active and show support of the issue; we can rally in Boston, elect those whose values and voting records reflect equality for all, and yes, even inundate the newsfeeds of Facebook with tiny red-and-pink squares.

One day, marriage inequality will be a thing of the past. Historians will depict Massachusetts as a pioneer, the first of the fifty states to allow same-sex marriage. And we Bostonians will be proud.