How boring are marriage equality wins now? So boring that yesterday's DOMA defeat isn't even on The New York Times home page this morning, as I write this.
And yet it's a big deal. Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer were together for 44 years. (Do go see the adorable movie about their life together; they're a very cute couple.) They married in Canada in 2007, a marriage that was recognized by their home state of New York. But when Thea died, the federal government taxed Edie on her estate as if they were strangers. The ACLU brought the suit, there were some private grumbles that there were already plenty of DOMA lawsuits and that a plaintiff as well-off as Windsor wouldn't be sympathetic—but I don't think anyone wants a widow stripped of property that she's treated as her own for decades. And in any case, there are so many lawsuits at this point, who even notices the plaintiffs?
Yesterday, a federal district court judge in New York ruled that, at least in this case, DOMA's Section 3 "does not pass constitutional muster." Here's some more data from Chris Geidner's filing over at MetroWeekly:
Other federal trial-court judges, in addition to Tauro and now Jones, also have found Section 3 of DOMA to be unconstitutional. U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey S. White in California reached the same conclusion earlier this year in a case slated for appeals arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in September. On May 24, U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken reached a similar decision in the class-action lawsuit, finding that Section 3 of DOMA and a provision of tax law unconstitutionally limit same-sex couples and domestic partners from participating in the long-term care plan offered by the California Public Employees Retirement System, or CalPERS. Additionally, a federal bankruptcy judge in California -- supported by several others -- also found that DOMA was unconstitutional insofar as it barred married same-sex couples from filing joint bankruptcy returns, a decision that resulted in the federal government no longer contesting such joint bankruptcy petitions. Windsor's case was one of two cited by Attorney General Eric Holder in his February 23, 2011, letter to House Speaker John Boehner detailing the administration's legal conclusion that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.
The Gavel notes that Boehner's defense of DOMA is now batting 0-4:
Boehner’s lawyers have now intervened in 14 cases and spent over $700,000 in taxpayer funds, but have now lost four cases in a row:
Less than a week ago, the First Circuit ruled that DOMA's Section 3 was unconstitutional; and this week, the Ninth Circuit upheld its three-judge panel, which said that Prop 8 was unconstitutional. Combine that with marriage equality wins many observers foresee at the ballot box in November (here's The New York Times on the upcoming Washington vote), and it might almost cheer you up after Wisconsin. (Maybe they'll elect Tammy Baldwin in November. Hang in there.)
I know I'm ungodly cheerful about all this. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at Netroots Nation '12's LGBT pre-conference day, and I kept thinking: I should be down the hall with the women's pre-conference, because in this room we are winning like crazy. Not everyone felt as cheerful as I did. Some folks were full of resentment at the coastal states where life is easy-peasy for the homos. North Carolina was angry. Indiana was furious. You folks in Massachusetts and New York might have won, they spat, but you've abandoned us. We can still lose our jobs for being gay. Our teens are still desperate. The only nationally active gay group helping us, one said, is PFLAG—and that's because it's local, and our family members want us to be able to stay.
And I understand. There's a raft full of reasons that I fled southern Ohio, a hundred or so years ago, for Massachusetts; realizing I was a lesbian was only the very last straw. But listen: the more we win on the very edges of the country, the easier it will be to roll that inward. Come out, come out, wherever you are. It's spectacular that your mothers and cousins are fighting to help shift your local climate to allow you to stay. But honestly, the more the country changes at the edges, the more quickly the inside will shift too.
Here's another thing I heard at Netroots that I haven't heard in a long time: How will "we" keep our "queer" culture if we join up with marriage? Won't we become just like "them"?
I have an answer to that: we're not all that queer. Some of us have pink mohawks; some of us are home-and-hearth types who go to work in business suits. Having the freedom to marry will only make easily visible our full range. The alt-culture types will belong with the nongay alt-culture types; the business suited guys and gals will hang with the other suits. Sexual orientation will no longer be what defines you as "queer."
(On a personal note: I'm not really sure know where I fall on this scale. I never did fit in southern Ohio, when I was a child, but I do, kinda, here in the People's Republic of Cambridge. I don't have time to think about it all that much right now; I'll worry about it after I pick up the Legos, unload the dishwasher, feed the 'keets, and get the vet to check up on the dog's paw.)