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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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From Friendship to Romance Nothing Stands in their Way – Except DOMA

Photograph of Lisa Block & Marian Rewcastle

Lisa Block & Marian Rewcastle

Lisa Block and Marian Rewcastle first met in 1992 while volunteering to raise scholarship funds for children living on Cape Cod. The two grew to be close friends over the next few years, eventually choosing to embark on a romantic relationship together on August 8, 1996. Marian recalls her excitement that she had “found someone who was so delightful to share my life with. This was something that I never expected would happen to me.” Their enthusiastic beginning has continued and grown, as the couple recently celebrated their 14th anniversary right where they started: living happily together in Harwich Port, MA.

Following the encouragement of friends and family and two months of planning, Lisa and Marian were married on Sunday, August 8, 2004, exactly 8 years after they decided to take life on together. “Everyone who was there said it was one of the nicest weddings they’d ever been to ... even the photographer, and we hardly knew him!” Marian says. The two remember feeling “very proud that we gave a very special memory to everyone else.”

In their six years of marriage, Lisa believes that “we have done everything we can to make sure we are legally protected.” Unfortunately, the legal protections and rights that typically accompany marriage status in the U.S. continue to be blocked from married couples of the same sex by DOMA Section 3. In addition to the emotional consequences of being treated like a second-class couple, Lisa and Marian also face significant financial punishment for being same-sex spouses.

Lisa feels fortunate to work as a business manager for a great family-owned, local Cape business, which also offers health insurance benefits to all of its full-time employees and their significant others. However, DOMA means that Marian is not treated the same by federal tax code as the opposite-sex spouses of Lisa’s coworkers. As Lisa explains, she and her colleagues “pay for all the additional people on their policies through a pre-tax benefits plan.” Because Lisa cannot pay for Marian’s insurance like her colleagues do, the insurance effectively costs her an extra $1200 a year.

And while they are both in good health at the moment, Lisa is still upset and in disbelief that, despite being together for over 14 years, her ex-husband and not her current wife is the one person who would be able to claim Social Security Survivor Benefits in the case of her death.

As they struggle with these questions and work through their financial burdens caused by DOMA, Lisa and Marian are perfectly content to enjoy a simple life together with their dog, Sophie, and two cats, Jack and Portia: reading, traveling often, seeking the company of family and friends, and exploring the Cape’s natural beauty. The only attention they want from the federal government today is assurance that they will honor their marriage rights provided by Massachusetts.

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