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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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Paying the Price For Inequality

Photograph of Marlin Nabors & Jonathan Knight

Marlin Nabors & Jonathan Knight

Late last month, GLAD filed an amended complaint in our lawsuit challenging Section 3 of DOMA, Gill v. OPM, which updates the tax overpayments of three of our plaintiff couples due to their inability to file their federal income tax returns as married. Unlike heterosexual spouses, each couple must instead file as either a single individual or head of household when they have dependent children.

For Marlin Nabors and Jonathan Knight, that means they’ve paid out $2,894 more in taxes since they married in 2006 than if they had been able to file jointly. That’s a significant amount of money for the couple, who bought a house in Hyde Park just two years ago that needed some fixing up.

“I do a lot of the work myself, and my dad even came from Ohio to help me install new appliances,” says Jonathan. “But every penny counts.”

Jonathan and Marlin first met at a coffee shop in Indianapolis in 2005. From the beginning, they balanced each other out. Marlin is from Flint, Michigan, and worked at a college in the city; Jonathan is from rural Indiana and worked at an organic dairy farm. Marlin, 32, was fascinated by Jonathan’s quiet intellect; Jonathan, 29, thought Marlin was sophisticated and outgoing.

Six months later, a college in Boston offered Marlin a job in student housing. He and Jonathan decided to take the plunge, and moved to Boston together. Jonathan found a job in financial administration at Harvard.

They have a solid foundation for their future together: the support of their families, friends, and community; good jobs; and a new home for the dog and children they’re talking about for their future.

“We want to plan for a future in which we aren’t discriminated against just for being a married couple,” says Marlin. “We think our country can do better than having a system of first- and second-class marriages.”

As they grow in their careers Jonathan and Marlin know that their finances will change. As a couple whose marriage is treated equally by the federal government, they may pay more in taxes. It’s a price they’re willing to pay—for equality and for the safety net the federal government provides for spouses.

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