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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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Jumping in the Deep End of the Pool

Photograph of Paul Ruseau & Bob Ruseau

Paul Ruseau & Bob Ruseau

Paul Ruseau sits in his Medford living room with his two-year-old daughter on his lap. He worries about how he and his husband, Bob, will be able to save for their children’s college educations. Or even before that, how will they be able to afford to renovate their house, adding another room so the kids can have separate bedrooms?

For Paul and Bob these worries are compounded by the federal government’s discrimination against their marriage. Because of DOMA, they lose thousands of dollars each year in extra taxes—money that could fund college savings accounts or help fix up the house.

“The bottom line is that because of DOMA we are less prepared than other married couples to navigate the financial challenges of raising a family,” says Paul. “If we were an opposite-sex couple we could give our kids so much more.”

Paul, 38, and Bob, 46, met in 2005—a year after marriage became a reality for same-sex couples in Massachusetts. The chemistry between them was perfect; they agreed on everything, including the desire to raise children. A year-and-a-half after they met, they exchanged vows in front of over 80 of their friends and family. They combined their last names to create a new name that they would share and that later they would both share with their children.

They gave themselves a year together before deciding to adopt. Then, another year later, in 2008, their family doubled in size when the Massachusetts foster care system matched them with Matthew (now 3) and Nev. In November of 2009 the adoption of Matthew Ruseau and Nev Ruseau became official.

“We began parenting like most families - by jumping in the deep end of the pool,” says Bob. ”We wanted to have a stay-at-home parent, so the day that we got the call that we were matched with Matthew and Nev, I made the choice to leave my job. Having a parent at home makes the kids feel stable and secure, but it has been a big financial challenge to lose my income.”

They also lose money because of DOMA. Bob is covered under Paul’s insurance plan at work, but because the federal government doesn’t consider them to be “a family” Paul has to pay taxes on the amount his employer pays for Bob’s insurance.

“This costs us thousands of dollars a year that other married couples don’t have to pay,” says Paul. “That’s money we could be saving for our kids’ future or for household expenses.”

Paul also worries that since he is the only wage earner, if he were to die unexpectedly, Bob would not receive social security survivor benefits. To compensate for this, the family pays for extra life insurance for Paul—yet more money they wouldn’t have to spend if the federal government recognized Paul and Bob’s marriage.

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