Friday, July 27, 2012

DOMA is going down: but when, and what then?

Yesterday I read this article from The Advocate

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn filed a brief Wednesday joining their constituent, Edith Windsor, in asking the Supreme Court to hear her challenge against the Defense of Marriage Act.
Windsor, 83, is suing the federal government over $363,000 in estate taxes she was forced to pay after her spouse, Thea Spyer, died in 2009. The couple was together for more than 40 years and had married in Canada in 2007, but because of section 3 of DOMA, the federal government did not recognize their marriage.
Now that Chief Justice Kennedy has shown that it really does matter to him how the court's decisions play to the citizenry, I don't see how the court can let DOMA stand. Opponents of the law are finding better cases to hold up as examples of its inherent un-Americaness. There are at least three cases heading to the court that stand a good chance of triggering a decision to quash DOMA.

Depending on which case gets there first, they could rule against DOMA 6-3. As far as I'm concerned, the only questions worth asking are: When? and What then?

I'd love to hear some thoughtful guesses on both questions. Here are mine:

When: 2013
What then: it depends on Congress (that is, which party has the majority in House and Senate); it depends on the political leanings of individual States. I believe that in terms of federal-worker benefits, immigration, and tax and inheritance laws, by 2014 we'll have parity--at least those of us who are legally married in our home states. And that's the rub: it will take a long time for states to accept other states' marriages. (Perhaps I should take bets on which will be the last holdouts: Alabama? Mississippi?) There will be a series of protracted battles. But at some point--faster than anyone believes possible right now, because marriage equality is the fastest equal-rights social change this country has ever experienced, and it's still gathering momentum--there will be a sea change. And every lesbian and gay man in this country will be able to marry their sweetie. (Providing, of course, that they're of legal age, not already married, etc.)

It's at this point that there will be an end to discrimination against queers--employers will no longer be able to get rid of you for kissing your girlfriend; landlords will no longer be able to throw you on the street for holding your boyfriend. And at this point, too, there will be an end to discrimination against trans people.

It will be soon, but I wish it were sooner. What diminishes some diminishes us all. I want equality, human rights, human dignity, for all QUILTBAG people.
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