A reader writes:
I am so glad to be alive to appreciate this moment. And to carry the memory of people who didn’t survive, whose deaths and whose battles for acceptance and love, whether private and within their families, or public, whether gentle or fierce, helped bring this to be. As you note, timing mattered so much in determining who lived and who died. But the survivors, like you, carried on the fight. My best friend’s older brother died of AIDS in 1994. He had come out as a teenager, in the late 1970s. He was never able to have a spouse, but his little brother – also gay, but much younger – was spared from the plague, and can now marry his sweetheart of 25+ years. Free at last.
I’m a young straight white man in the USA, and this feels like a victory for me, and for the open-heartedness and dignity and simple wisdom of the world I live in. I can only imagine how it must feel for those millions of you who have been openly disparaged and oppressed for so long. I can only imagine how it must feel to have seen and felt the culture shifting as dramatically as it has these last few decades, and yet to have remained imprisoned by idiotic and hateful bureaucracy. But even though this victory is less mine than yours – not least because you took up this fight long before it seemed plausible – I am nevertheless not shy in declaring victory and expressing my gratitude to you and everyone who has fought for this. The collapse of DOMA and the blossoming of equality and freedom - our becoming a more perfect union - is a gift to us all.
Of course it’s not over, but the light is shining clearly now. Congratulations for this day, and, hey, for the federal benefits you are now rightly entitled to! Fuck yeah.
Like you, I was elated and relieved to see DOMA struck down this morning. A few hours later, that elation has ebbed. As I read the reactions and commentary, specifically as I read about the federal rights that are still residency-based, I am selfishly saddened. Because my partner, my son, and I live in Texas, and we still can’t get legally married in our home, in front of our closest family and friends. You have repeatedly stated on your blog that you support states’ rights to make the marriage decision individually and independently, but as I (and many of your other readers, I’m sure) have said time and time again, that’s easy to say when you live in a state that recognizes your marriage, or you have the means to move to elsewhere. If you live in one of those states that doesn’t, you still feel a bit like a second-class citizen today.
You wrote: “Immigration equality is here. Again: after two decades of extreme anxiety, history wipes it away. You have no idea how much relief so many bi-national couples are now feeling.”
That’s likely not quite accurate.
The opinion appears to create a “dual federalist” system in that the federal government must defer to a state’s law to define marriage. Thus, a bi-national couple that wanted to reside in, say, Texas, which has a law on the books expressly forbidding recognition of gay marriage from other jurisdictions, would not be recognized under federal law even if actually married in a foreign jurisdiction. Thus, immigration equality appears to only exist in state’s recognizing gay marriage. We need a Section 2 challenge to wrap this thing up.
Just wanted to direct your attention to this petition. Because of the patchwork of different regulations used by federal agencies, many couples who are legally married in a US state still won’t be eligible for benefits in that state if it doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. The reason for this is that some agencies use a “place of celebration” standard while others use a “place of residence” standard. This leads to perverse consequences like a same-sex couple married in Maryland but residing in Virginia being eligible for benefits through the DOD but not Veterans’ Affairs. President Obama can immediately correct this by issuing an executive order instructing federal agencies to adopt a uniform place-of-celebration standard. More people need to know about this.
I’ve never understood the whole “Scalia is so brilliant” thing. I’ve been hearing it for years and years, particularly from certain law school profs (who were raging unreconstructed old school liberals, but who loved to let us all know that they found “Nino” quite charming at cocktail parties). I’m a corporate lawyer, but my father was a federal appellate civil rights lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund for almost 40 years. He argued cases in front of SCOTUS including after Scalia was appointed. My father’s impression of him based on appearing before him seems totally consistent with my read of Scalia’s claptrap opinions – he’s a somewhat intelligent but extraordinarally belligerent narcissist. Reading his stuff, for me, provokes revulsion at his immaturity – which brings disrepute to the institution – and whiplash at his rampant inconsistency.
(Photo: Chase Hardin (2nd L) hugs friend Kai Neander (L) on the steps of the Supreme Court after favorable rulings were issued in same sex marriage cases June 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. By Win McNamee/Getty Images)