Equal marriage. Equal Dignity. Good News Worthy Of A Song.
A post by Neil Hart on homosexuality, LGBT, lesbian and gay stuff and the Lutheran Church of Australia.
Further to my earlier post.
This is the story (abridged version) of how the stake of justice was driven through the heart of the Defence of (traditional) Marriage Act (DOMA) .
In 1962 Edith Windsor met Thea Spyer. They danced until she had a hole n her stocking. They kept attending dances and parties together and two years later started dating. In 1967 Thea proposed to Edie with an engagement broach rather than a ring. The couple moved in together and, in Edies words…
continued the love affair that just went on and on.
In 1977 Thea was diagnosed with MS which progressed until in 2009 she was given less than a year to live. The couple decided to get married and flew to Canada for the ceremony.
“I’ve asked a number of long-range couples, gay couples who they’ve got married, I’ve asked them: ‘Was it different the next morning and the answer is always: ‘Yes’.’ It’s a huge difference.”
Less than two years after they were married, Thea died. A month after that, Edie had a heart attack… a broken heart at the loss of the love of her life.
Thea left her estate to Edie but because of the 1996 Defence of (traditional) Marriage Act (DOMA) their marriage was not legally recognised. As a result Edie was charged $363,053 in estate taxes.
“In the midst of my grief I realised that the federal government was treating us as strangers, and it meant paying a humongous estate tax. And it meant selling a lot of stuff to do it and it wasn’t easy. I live on a fixed income and it wasn’t easy,”
The 81yo Edie decided to appeal the estate tax charge as unconstitutional. Her case was a direct challenge to DOMA and ended up being heard by The Supremem Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Edie always felt confident. She said that she trusted the court and the constitution.
It turns out that she was right.
SCOTUS stated the following about DOMA.
This law tells same sex couples in all the world that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition. This places same sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage. This differentiation demeans the couple whose moral and sexual choices the constitution protects and humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same sex couples. This law interferes with the equal dignity of same sex marriages by treating those persons as if they were living in marriages less respected than others. This federal statute, this law, is in violation of the fifth ammendment.
That SCOTUS chose to refer to the Fifth Ammendment of the Cosntitution is significant. It is the fifith ammendment that protects a person against abuse by government authoritiy. It allows a person the right to be silent and not give testimony in court if they so choose. It requires the police to inform a person who has been placed under arrest of their legal rights. The fifith ammendment reaches back to that basic western legal document the Magna Carta of 1215.
When SCOTUS chose to cite the fifth amendment in its ruling they declared to Edie and Thea and all the world that marriage equality was not only a fundamental human right it is also a fundamental legal right.
Thousands of gay couples and their supporters gathered around the Supreme Court Building and in Cities and towns across the US to hear the SCOTUS ruling. The announcement will bring significant changes to all of their lives and was cause for huge celebration. It started thousands of parties across the country.
I watched a lot of you tube clips today, tiny segments of celebrations taken from here and there. There was dancing and singing but…. truth be told… although they were all very nice…
(Ummm. how can I say this politely to our US friends?)…
…when it comes to love, you Americans really dont know how to burst into celebration song.
For that, you need the Kiwis!
Watch what happened in the public gallery when the NZ parliament passed their motion for marriage equality earlier this year.
I am so happy for you Edie. I am so happy for all the gay couples in the US.