The Impact of the Supreme Court’s Rulings on Us

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on two cases about equality of marriage for same-sex couples. Many friends have asked how those rulings will impact Tawn and me, especially the ruling in United States vs. Windsor, which found Part 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.

Tawn and I were married in Iowa almost four years ago and have lived in Thailand for more than seven years. We chose to live here for a variety of reasons, the biggest of which was that there was no practicable way for him to stay in the United States after completing his master’s degree.

The first state to provide same-sex marriage was Massachusetts in late 2003, so we had the option of getting married. But because of DOMA, the federal government would not recognize our marriage.

This is because immigration is one of the more than 1,100 federal statutes that use marital status to determine rights, benefits, and privileges. Because of DOMA, the federal government would not recognize our marriage so I could not sponsor Tawn’s immigration as my spouse.

Impact of the DOMA Ruling

Now that Part 3 of DOMA has been ruled unconstitutional (Part 2, which excuses states from having to recognize same-sex marriages that are conducted in other states, still stands), the door is open for me to sponsor Tawn, should we want to move back to the United States.

This would make immigration relatively painless and he could be in the United States and able to work within about 90 days. Spouse visas are expedited and are not subject to country-based quotas like other types of immigration visas.

When are we moving back to the United States? The answer is, no time soon. There were many secondary reasons for moving to Thailand and now that Tawn has a one-year old fashion design business and my US-based employer severed my employment after I declined their request to relocate to Atlanta, there is greater gravity holding us in Thailand. 

We will probably return to the United States some day, perhaps splitting our time between the two countries. But right now, it is enough to know that we have the right to return, when we choose to do so.


Posing with my grandparents in Kansas City this spring.

Impact of the Proposition 8 Ruling

With regards to the second Supreme Court ruling, on the case of Hollingsworth vs. Perry, this case does not directly affect us. The case asked whether California’s Proposition 8, which halted same-sex marriage, was constitutional.

The Supreme Court determined that the Proposition 8 supporters did not have the legal standing to appeal the lower court’s decision when the state government declined to appeal the case. This effectively resulted in Proposition 8 being invalidated and same-sex marriages resumed in California Friday afternoon.

The only effect that this case would have on us is if we moved back to California. It would ensure that our marriage, performed outside of California, would be recognized by the state government.

I want to give a quick thank you to all of the friends and family members who supported us and the larger fight for marriage equality. I especially want to thank our straight allies, people who proudly spoke up for equality even though it wasn’t directly their fight.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “None of us are free until all of us are free.”

 

Thoughts After an Emergency Room Visit

Wednesday evening, Tawn called me.  He had just left dinner with a friend and a severe rash had appeared on his torso, so he decided to head directly for the emergency room.  He asked me to meet him there.

In the end, the doctor was able to treat the rash and suspects it may be a previously unrecognized food allergy.  Tawn is fine.  But while I was sitting in the emergency room, I realized that we’ve got to get serious about completing powers of attorney for each other as well as our wills.  Had a hospital stay been necessary or decisions of medical care been required, our marriage would not be recognized and we could not make decisions on behalf of the other person.

One more of those little details, little insults almost, that remind me on a regular basis how far we have left to go to be treated equally.

At the end of January, the Iowa House passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.  Thankfully, the Iowa Senate is Democrat-controlled and is unlikely to pass the bill, but in the state where Tawn and I were married in August 2009, our legal right to marriage is under attack. 

Not a week later, the Iowa House started kicking around the idea of a bill that would open the door for businesses, organizations, and individuals to discriminate against same-sex couples on religious grounds. But this legislation would go far beyond gays and lesbians, opening the door for discrimination against any married couples, including interfaith and interracial couples!  Thankfully, enough furor was kicked up that the lead sponsor of the bill tabled it, citing concerns raised about the bill.

Forgive me if sometimes I seem a little defensive about my rights.

rollingstoneuganda Kato

At the same time, perspective is needed.  On January 26th, gay Ugandan human rights activist David Kato was brutally murdered.  Uganda is a country where the level of homophobia and hatred is extreme.  Homosexual acts are punishable with up to 14 years of imprisonment and members of the government have recently lobbied to have the punishment increased to the death penalty in some cases.  While the Ugandan supreme court has ruled that homosexuals have a right to privacy, that didn’t stop one major newspaper from publishing pictures of several people including Mr. Kato and saying they were gay, along with the headline “Hang them!” 

Keeping all this in mind helps give me more appreciation for what rights I do have, or at least for where I am in the world.  Being beaten to death for being gay is an unlikely outcome in my life. 

But don’t think for a minute I’m going to wave that around like some flag of victory.  I still expect equality.