What The DOMA Repeal Means To Me

Steph & Darcy
Steph & Darcy

Welcome to Format Free Friday, when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense that which we rarely welcome in life: Unsolicited Advice.

In September of this year, my wife Steph and I will celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary. Our civil ceremony was in Connecticut because we were married during the time when New York State would not allow same sex couples to marry but would instead recognize any legal marriage from another state. We’ve been legally married in the State of New York this entire time, albeit, without federal recognition or rights.

I want to help personalize what it’s been like for me to be legally married in a state without the US government recognizing my marriage. I’ll start with a concrete example, taxes, since that seems to be the most relatable issue regardless of which political party one belongs to. Because we were not recognized federally, Steph and I were required to file our taxes separately every year and we could not claim one-another as dependants on our taxes. If I were to take the time to calculate the dollar amount that filing our taxes separately over the last 4 years amounted to, I imagine it would be tens of thousands of dollars that we were taxed that we wouldn’t have been taxed if one of us had had a penis. We’d likely have a down payment for a home, which is of course the American dream, had the government not penalized us for being lesbians. They might as well call it what it is: The gay tax.

And that’s not the worst example of how DOMA affected us. My sister, who happens to also be my best friend, lives in Charlotte North Carolina with my nephews and niece. I have not visited her once since North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions and defining marriage between a man and a woman as the only valid "domestic legal union" in the state. I haven’t visited her because of my fear of what could happen to Steph if I were to wind up in a hospital in North Carolina. Let me walk you through this: My legal wife would have no marital next-of-kin rights to visit me in the hospital, nor would she have any state rights to make decisions about my care. Yes, of course we have a healthcare proxy agreement drawn up. But those are only as effective as the hospital administrator’s willingness to abide by it. In a state where discrimination is the law of the land, I hesitated to take any chances.

This week Steph’s dad, who is retired, moved to South Carolina. He is her closest family member and until DOMA was repealed, our plan was that we’d only see him when he visited us, for the same reasons I haven’t visited my sister. Even if there is no accident that renders one of us in a hospital, does it seem wise or safe for two women (one of whom looks like Steph) to visit a Southern state where voters amended their state’s constitution (6 years before North Carolina did) to preclude members of our community from getting married? If that’s what they felt entitled to express at the polls, what are they saying about us at the dinner table?

The issue of personal safety is a big one for me. I don’t want to be tolerated. I want to be accepted. And in a world where there is a federal law that discriminates against my right to marry, my sense of personal safety changes depending on the views of the people who I’m in close proximity to.

I know that this is Format Free Friday and I’m supposed to dispense unsolicited advice – I don’t really have any advice to give you regarding the DOMA repeal. I suppose I’m just grateful that today, for about 2 minutes, you took the time to see the world through my eyes, and perhaps having done so will deepen your compassion and your understanding of how monumental the DOMA repeal was to my family.

A Vote For Romney Is A Vote Against Dr. Darcy

Screen shot 2012-10-25 at 11.53.54 AM

Welcome to Format Free Fridays at AskDrDarcy.com, the one day a week when I break the format of answering your questions and I dispense that which we rarely welcome in life: Unsolicited information.

Election day is 11 days away. Interestingly enough, as we’ve neared this date, I’ve personally had to distance myself from posting political endorsements for President Obama on Facebook because, quite frankly, I don’t have the stomach for the comments that my endorsements provoke from Romney supporters. My reasons for supporting Obama have been further fueled by a personal journey that I began this summer - one that I’ll speak more about in a later post.

But my recent journey aside, I get a knee-jerk repulsion every time I learn that friends or family members plan to vote for Romney.  I become flooded with feelings and emotions that I can’t seem to put words to and so I become silent. Or I avoid Facebook. You see, I don’t really believe that someone can care about me much less love me and support Mitt Romney because I believe the two are mutually-exclusive.

Until this week I’ve been unable to articulate the reasons for my feelings…and then I stumbled upon an article on Huffington Post by a man named Kergan Edwards-Stout entitled, “Please Defriend Me,” and I thought, finally, there’s a voice to my feelings. His words are, to me, so relatable, so beautifully expressed that I requested permission from him to post his article on my blog. This is the first time since the inception of AskDrDarcy.com that I’ve ever used another’s writing. What follows is an excerpt from Kergan's article followed by a compilation of words written by various Facebook friends. I've changed the final language to personalize it to my family.

One final note to my family members, virtually all of whom are planning to vote for Romney: Please do not discuss your perspective with me. I am not interested in a debate. We can agree to disagree on politics, though I’ll remind you that those who enable discrimination are as culpable as those who perpetrate it.

Please Defriend Me

If you plan to vote for Mitt Romney, you are putting a nail into my civil rights coffin, and I'd rather not have friends who think I deserve anything less than equal treatment under the law. Romney supports DOMA (which directly and negatively impacts me, restricting my partner Russ, our kids, and my federal protections and tax benefits under the law), and has noted his support for an anti-marriage equality amendment as well. While you may see your vote for him as one about the economy (and we can debate who'd be better for that until the cows come home), what you intend by your vote really doesn't matter. Your vote means that you are supporting someone who not only thinks I'm not equal to you, but who works vigorously to ensure my "less-than" legal status. Your vote for him means that you are totally fine with me being treated with disrespect.

Now, you may see this as an indication that I am being too "single-minded," and I'll admit that when you're denied even the simplest of human considerations, it makes it difficult to look beyond that. But this is about much more than my treatment under the law. Who I am and what I believe passionately in are also things which Romney discounts...

Bottom line: I don't care who you are; whether you are my relation by blood or a longtime acquaintance, I don't want "friends" who don't think I'm as good as they are. I want friends who value me, who see my worth as a human being, and who fully support my equal protections under the law. So, if you're voting for Romney, whether you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, please defriend me. You won't hurt my feelings. I won't cause a big stink. In fact, you'll be creating space in my life for others to come in who do feel that my being here on the planet matters.

I'm not interested in debating this. Please respect my wishes.

~Kergan Edwards-Stout

Let's assume that Romney and his plan are better for America. To get this better plan you must, however, vote to restrict someone else’s rights. Some may say, "Well it’s worth it because Obama sucks."

Does Obama suck enough that you would say gays don’t get the same rights as you?

Still good with that vote?

What if to get the Romney plan, you had to restrict the rights of interracial couples?

Still good with that vote?

What if to get the Romney plan you had to restrict the rights of Jewish people (does this remind you of anything)?

Still good with that vote?

At what point would the word Gays, be replaced by a term that you could not support? Even if you think (incorrectly) that being gay is a choice, isn't being Catholic, or Protestant or any other faith a choice? What if we said, "Do what you want, but if you marry Catholic, you must pay more taxes on your health care, and you will have your spousal rights limited?"

Are you still good with that vote? What if it was your name in that sentence, or your child’s name, or your parent's name?

Think about this when you vote in 11 days.