DOMA Decision Dispatch: Plaintiffs Share Their Reactions
Gill v. Office of Personnel Management Plaintiffs
It was just one week ago that Judge Joseph Tauro handed our plaintiffs in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management - our challenge to DOMA Section 3—a big victory. Judge Tauro ruled that the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibits federal recognition of same-sex married couples in Massachusetts is unconstitutional. As he wrote in his decision, “Congress undertook this classification for the one purpose that lies entirely outside of legislative bounds, to disadvantage a group of which it disapproves. And such a classification, the Constitution clearly will not permit.”
Not surprisingly, our plaintiffs reacted with expressions of joy, elation, excitement, relief, thrills – you get the picture. Perhaps the most vivid description of decision day emotion came from Nancy Gill, who was asked during GLAD’s telephone press conference about her immediate reaction to the news.
“I was cooking dinner and I had the news on and I was waiting to hear,” she told reporters. “I didn’t know one way or another what was going to happen and I didn’t know when. And I just let out a big ‘Woohoo!’ because it’s another step. I’m very pleased and just really very excited. That’s all I can really say, just very excited.”
Nancy spoke at the press conference with her spouse and fellow plaintiff Marcelle Letourneau. Meanwhile, their son was having a pretty good day because of the decision, too. “Our son Will was allowed to play Xbox 360 while we were on the call,” said Nancy. “Naturally he was pleased to have the extra time on video games.”
Like Nancy, other plaintiffs were going about their daily lives when they got the good news. “I heard the decision as I was off to my daughter’s softball game,” said Dorene Bowe-Shulman. “I wanted to stop what I was doing and focus in on the victory. Each step along the path to end the discrimination sometimes feels like it takes so long and I wanted to relish in the moment a little longer before I resumed my life as mom.”
Jonathan Knight and Marlin Nabors were both at work when they got wind of the decision. They didn’t get the chance to digest the news until they got home. “I think we felt a sense of relief that helped to reinforce that fair-minded people can get this right,” said Marlin. “I immediately wanted more people to know about the ruling so that others can understand how our future security is tied to the outcome of this case.”
And from the “mouths of babes department” we have this gem from Emma, Mary and Dorene’s forward-thinking young daughter: “Our precocious 11 year-old said she was relieved,” Mary related. “She has been very worried about college - at 11! - and whether we will be able to afford a school she wants to go to.”
Judge Tauro actually dealt a double-blow to DOMA last Thursday, issuing a favorable ruling in Massachusetts’ legal challenge to DOMA Section 3 as well. The Attorney General argued that DOMA unconstitutionally forces the state of Massachusetts to discriminate against married same-sex couples with regard to the administration of federal programs and benefits; Judge Tauro concurred.
The rulings are not effective immediately, so Gill plaintiffs have not yet sought the benefits which they have too long been denied under DOMA. And we’re still awaiting word from the U.S. Department of Justice as to whether it will appeal the decision, although GLAD fully expects the government will do so.
But this ruling is a tremendous and hopeful first step. As plaintiffs Mary Ritchie and Kathy Bush put it, “We are starting to have faith in the future and that our family and other families like ours will be treated with fairness and equity.”← Stories Home