Online extra: Wedding Bell Blues: Advocacy group to share stories of DOMA's impact
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the Boston-based group that's suing the federal government over the Defense of Marriage Act, has debuted its DOMA Storybook (www.glad.org/doma/stories).
The site will feature a new story every week of a couple who is harmed by DOMA, which bans the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. The opening story is of Judi Burgess and Rebecca Rehm, who live in western Massachusetts and are raising their 2-year-old daughter, Beau.
Rehm and Burgess have been together for 10 years and married for six. But because they can't file their federal taxes jointly as a married couple, Rehm had to pay federal taxes on the value of the health insurance Burgess received through Rehm's employer, according to GLAD. Burgess returned to her employer's plan and now pays thousands more each year for less comprehensive coverage.
"Every year we lose money that we could be using for family expenses or setting aside for Beau's college fund," Rehm told GLAD. "It's a yearly penalty and a reminder that in the eyes of the federal government we are not equal to other married couples."
In addition, Burgess's income is significantly higher than Rehm's, so Burgess's Social Security payment will be higher when the women become older.
Lower-earning spouses typically are eligible for half of their higher-earning spouse's Social Security payments, but Rehm won't be, according to GLAD. She also won't be eligible for Burgess's full Social Security payment if Burgess dies before her.
Married same-sex couples in all U.S. jurisdictions, including those in California whose marriages were ruled legal by the state Supreme Court, face similar discrimination.
Catholic marriage equality group makes declaration
Catholics for Marriage Equality, a group that says it's working to create "effective and respectful responses" to Catholic bishops' opposition to same-sex civil marriage, is offering a declaration on its Web site.
"As faithful Roman Catholics we believe that the constitutional right to practice freedom of religion is based on respect for the dignity of each individual," the declaration says. "We must guard against, not promote, the domination of one religious tradition over others in our civic life. Making respect for the dignity of all people not only an ideal but a living truth, we affirm civil marriage for same-sex couples throughout the United States."
The declaration calls for the recognition of separation of church and state, Catholic teaching on social justice, and the historic denial of civil rights for Roman Catholics.
In addition, "Same-sex civil marriage does not in any way coerce any religious faith or tradition to change its beliefs or doctrine or alter its traditional marriage practices," the group noted.
"We do not ask the church to perform same-sex marriages. We do implore the church to honor the states' prerogative to authorize civil marriages for our gay and lesbian family and friends," the declaration continues.
Find more information and sign the declaration at www.catholicsformarriageequality.net.
Bill would end barriers to divorce
Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) recently introduced AB 2700, legislation that would create a consolidated form and procedure to dissolve both a civil marriage and domestic partnership.
The bill, sponsored by Equality California and introduced February 19, would amend the state's family code, allowing for couples who first registered as domestic partners and who legally married thereafter, to dissolve both contracts through a single, uniform procedure. The current system forces couples to go through a separate process for each.
"AB 2700 brings us a step closer toward marriage equality by recognizing that all marriages are treated alike, even when it comes to dissolving marriages," Ma said in a joint statement with EQCA.
"Currently, couples must navigate a confusing system that is especially daunting for those who lack legal representation," Geoff Kors, EQCA's executive director, said in the statement. "Since the state of California treats the relationships of same-sex couples differently, we need this legislation to prevent couples from having to jump through bureaucratic hoops until we restore a system of fairness and equality."
For more information on AB 2700, visit www.leginfo.ca.gov.
Wedding Bell Blues is an online column looking at various issues related to the marriage equality fight in California and elsewhere. Please send column ideas or tips to Seth Hemmelgarn at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (415) 861-5019. Wedding Bell Blues appears every other Tuesday.