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DOMA Stories:
Federal Marriage Discrimination Hurts Families

GLAD is in court challenging the federal government's discrimination against legally married same-sex couples. In Gill v OPM and Pedersen v OPM, we represent couples and widowers who are harmed in various ways by DOMA. But DOMA hurts many more people than we can represent in these lawsuits.

In these stories, loving couples, widows and widowers, from all walks of life, describe how DOMA hurts their families.

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Family: That’s What We Are

Photograph of David Wilson & Rob Compton

David Wilson & Rob Compton

David Wilson’s and Rob Compton’s commitment to providing security and stability to their parents, five children and seven grandchildren, and to each other is what led them to serve as plaintiffs in GLAD’s Goodridge lawsuit that ended marriage discrimination against same-sex couples in Massachusetts. Their historic wedding ceremony at Arlington Street Church as one of the first same-sex couples to legally marry in the United States on May 17, 2004 –broadcast around the globe – had guests alternately weeping and cheering in the pews.

Of course, their many family members were among those who crowded into the church on that unseasonably warm spring day. David’s two grandsons served as ring bearers. Given the premium the couple places on family, it’s not surprising that they were first introduced to one another 13 years ago through a mutual friend at an event sponsored by Gay Fathers of Greater Boston, a social/support group for gay men raising children.

“It’s challenging for divorced men who have children to date,” Rob explains, “And if you meet another gay man who’s never had that, they don’t understand the obligations that you have to your children and the financial obligations as well. With David it was easy because he had also been married and had kids. We had so much in common and could really support each other.”

Despite the triumph of Goodridge, however, DOMA continues to make them feel like second-class citizens. David describes, “It actually feels the same as when we were second-class citizens and not married in Massachusetts.  We’re at a stage of our lives when federal protections are more important than state benefits.”

As the years go by, David, 66, and Rob, 61, are increasingly concerned about planning for their future. Both have had to deal with a number of surgeries – Rob has had kidney stones, diverticulitis (a painful hole in the intestine), and a hip replacement while David has been treated for thyroid cancer. Given their increasing medical expenses, David and Rob are concerned about the implications of DOMA on their lives.

Each year they lose about $6,000 because David is denied the spousal Social Security Benefit that heterosexual married couples are automatically granted. Also, they face growing concerns about the inheritance tax that they might have to pay if something were to happen to one of them. As David says, “If something were to happen to one of us, how would our home transfer? Rob or I might not be in a position to pay the hefty inheritance tax, and the surviving spouse might be left having to sell the only home he has, and that is really frightening to us. Straight married couples don’t have to worry about that.”

Rob and David both add, “You know, we certainly want to protect each other [and] everything that we’ve worked hard to achieve. We built our home together and we want to make sure that we are able to live out our senior years with the same security (financial, emotional and psychological) as every other happily married couple.”

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