So, you’ve probably been hearing about the crazy week in politics. It will probably not shock you to hear that I’m extremely happy with two big pieces of news coming from the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS) this week. I can’t help but want to ponder on them for a moment, and I hope you’ll indulge my little, gay “happy dance”. If possible, visualize me doing the Snoopy happy dance, my feet a blur.
The Doom of DOMA
When Steve and I got married in 2004, gay marriage had just become legal in Massachusetts. We didn’t rush out right away principally because, in our minds, we’d been married for years. When we officially tied the knot in December, we did so with something of a political agenda on our minds. We felt that, if we were going to fight for the right to marry, we should probably be able to point to our own marriage. If the right to marry in MA was taken away, we wanted to be ready to put up a fight.
That was the atmosphere then, and, while a couple of challenges to gay marriage have popped up, no one has come even vaguely close to taking gay marriage away here in the Bay State. Nevertheless, our marriage has always felt like a second-class citizen, primarily because of the lack of federal recognition. We have to have our taxes filed jointly for the state, but separately for the IRS. We’ve always been a bit nervous about what would happen if one of us got sick. While MA hospitals have always been very good about treating us like any other couple, they aren’t federally mandated to. What if we got sick in Florida? Would they be as cool?
This week, all of that went out the window as SCOTUS declared that the federal government had no right to say what states do when it comes to marriage. The lovely section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was dumped. I sent Steve an email asking him how he felt about filing all our taxes jointly. It was a beautiful thing.
It’s even more poignant and positive for our friends Gary & Peter. They’ve been together about as long as we have, but they haven’t gotten married, because Gary is a Canadian citizen. He has to jump through absurd hoops, renewing his green card, getting work visas, and so on. As soon as they heard, a proposal was made, and they’re getting married right away. This is going to solve any number of problems for them, and I couldn’t be happier.
Golden State Gettin’ Gayer
The other nice bit of news was that SCOTUS ruled that they could not override the lower court decision that had rendered Prop 8 unconstitutional. This paves the way for gay marriage to ramp back up in California.
This is especially poignant for some friends of mine, Scott and Ben. They live in California, but they had to come out here to get married. I’m so happy for them to not only be legally recognized in their own state, but to get the federal benefits as well. Their wedding was one of the nicest ones I’ve ever been to. There was apple picking, hobbit-esque costumes, and an open-mike chance to sing a bit. I sang the Beatles song “I Will” at their request…one of my favorite love songs.
So not only is there gay marriage in my lifetime, as I once thought there never would be, but now, I’m eligible for federal benefits. With California, there are now 13 states allowing same-sex marriage, and it seems inevitable that all of them will, eventually. At the rate we’re going, it’s likely to be within the next twenty-five years. With any luck, I’ll live to see it happen.
I have a few young gay friends and family members in my life. I’m so grateful that they’re growing up in a world where they’ll be able to marry whoever they choose (in at least some states) and have it recognized by the whole country. By the time the next generation grows up, this is likely to all be history, and they’ll wonder that this was ever an issue at all. Polls show that younger people support gay marriage by a much larger majority, and, as those younger people get to vote, or get into office, things will continue to progress, and the future will keep getting brighter.
Still Work to Do
As great as all this is, it’s clear that there are still plenty of hurdles before everyone is being treated equally. The shenanigans in Texas this week show that quite plainly, as does SCOTUS’ ruling on the Voting Rights Act. Yes, we’re headed in the right direction (at least by my standards…your mileage may vary…but, then, why are you reading my column?), but we’re not there yet. I am more likely to celebrate by listening to Queen Latifah singing “I Know Where I’ve Been” from Hairspray. “There’s a dream in the future. There’s a struggle that we have yet to win. And there’s pride in my heart, ‘cause I know where I’m going, and I know where I’ve been.”
Sometimes it’s good to pause and look back, when you’re climbing. Looking ahead may be daunting, but looking back lets us see how far we’ve come, and, if we’re not at the top yet…well…we’re sure as heck no longer at the bottom.