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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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So Much Can Change in One Day

Photograph of Jonathan Knight & Marlin Nabors

Jonathan Knight & Marlin Nabors

On July 8, my spouse Jonathan and I both left for work in the morning as we do every weekday. But by the time we returned home at the end of the day, we felt a sense of relief and security that didn’t exist just hours before. While we were going about our workdays, a federal judge struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevents legally married same-sex couples from receiving the same federal protections and responsibilities as all other married couples.

Jonathan and I got married in 2006 and bought our first home in 2008. Last year, we joined the lawsuit filed by Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) challenging Section Three of DOMA. Our new life together as a married couple means a lot to us, yet every year we lose thousands of dollars because the federal government forces us to file our taxes separately instead of as a married couple filing jointly. We lose money that we would like to put towards our new home and building a future together, because our government does not believe that we deserve the same financial security as all other married couples.

But it’s not just about the money we lose; it’s about our desire to live in a just and equal society that is important to us. Since we joined the lawsuit Jonathan and I have had many conversations about the harms DOMA has caused our fellow plaintiffs. Their stories are a glimpse into our future if DOMA remains law – paying thousands more each year in taxes, fearing that the federal government won’t let us provide for each other as we grow old, and generally disrespecting our marriage in ways it wouldn’t for a similarly situated opposite-sex couple. We recognize now how closely our present and future security is tied to these federal benefits and protections.

Last August, my sister passed away in a car accident. Her sudden death was a shock. Coordinating the memorial service, dealing with her death, coping with all of it was overwhelming. And Jonathan stood by me and my family during the grieving and the chaos, providing a sense of calm and comfort. My family recognizes and supports our marriage and our life together. It’s so simple, but knowing that we are a valued part of my family makes everything easier. We just cannot imagine why the federal government treats our marriage differently. We endure all the same struggles as any other couple and just want to face them with love and support.

The ruling reaffirmed our sense of optimism that the federal government can do better than creating first- and second- class citizens. For the first time we believed that some day soon the federal government will recognize our marriage in the same way that people who see the rings on our fingers do, and understand that our married life together should be celebrated. We are excited by what this ruling means for our life together even though we know this is just one step forward of many in the struggle for equality. But in this moment we are proud to share this victory with our fellow plaintiffs and look forward to what the resolution of this lawsuit might bring.

Marlin Nabors and his spouse Jonathan Knight live in Hyde Park. They are plaintiffs in Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders’ lawsuit challenging Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management.

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