How Much Longer Until I’m Equal?

Is there an LGBT legal organization that hasn’t filed a challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act? Yesterday, Immigration Equality got on the bus, with a lawsuit challenging DOMA’s Section 3 (which bars the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages) because it prevents American citizens from sponsoring their same-sex spouses for green cards. When my cousin Laura married a Dutchman, Erik, in a beautiful ceremony at the UN, no one worried that they wouldn’t be able to live together here; of course she’d be able to get him a visa to stay, even if he lost his job. But had she married a Dutch woman, Erika, the visa application would be rejected on its face—even though, in both New York and the Netherlands, the marriage was equally valid. That distinction is what the IE lawsuit is challenging. The New York Times has some nice coverage of the details. Not being able to live in the same country as your beloved spouse: that’s a large and painful cost. (Here’s the cost of DOMA to me, personally: $3,600/year. That’s how much the IRS taxes my wife for carrying me on her health insurance. Since, in federal terms, we are legal strangers, the IRS treats one-third of her employer-provided health insurance as imputed income, and taxes it accordingly—even though she had exactly the same health insurance plan for herself and her son before I came along.)

How many lawsuits does that make, now? At least five DOMA challenges by the major groups: Gill (GLAD), Pederson (GLAD), McLaughlin (SLDN), Windsor (ACLU), and Golinski (Lambda Legal). The leading case, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, goes in front of a panel of First Circuit judges tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.—the first case in which a federal appeals court will hear a challenge to DOMA. That’s the case that my money’s on. 

Unless, of course, Congress has the sense to repeal DOMA by passing the Respect for Marriage Act first. The RMA has 32 cosponsors in the Senate, all Dems, and 134 in the House, where one—one!—Republican, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Florida, isn’t afraid of the Tea Party. President Obama has said he would sign the RMA. According to Greg Sargent at the Post, his advisers are now debating whether or not to come out publicly in favor of same-sex marriage, ending the long “evolution.” And why shouldn’t he? Those who hate him already think he favors same-sex marriage (and Leninist communism, of course). Giving a nice firm statement in favor would sure make some of us base people happy—not just LGBT folks, but our families, friends, and progressive supporters who think that, by now, it’s a no-brainer.

In other marriage equality news, last week some documents exposed that the chief opponent of same-sex marriage, the National Organization for Marriage, worked on a strategy to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks — two key Democratic constituencies” on marriage. Yesterday, The New York Times opined nicely against NOM, saying, “When a light is shined into the dark corners of American politics, it’s never pleasant to see what scurries away.” Of course, all NOM was doing is what all political groups do: they were trying to identify existing political fault lines to advance their point of view. The fact that many black churches preach against same-sex marriage, dividing them from their own LGBT parishioners and from a position that is increasingly entrenched in the mainstream of the Democratic Party, is a real fault line, as poor Maggie Gallagher, NOM’s founder, tries to say on MSNBC. Maggie Gallagher really believes that same-sex marriage would destroy the American family; she’s been on this increasingly hopeless pursuit for more than a decade. To quote The Wizard of Oz, I don’t think Maggie is a bad woman; she’s just a very bad wizard. And she’s going to lose.

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