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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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Still a Lucky Man

Photograph of Jay Toupin

Jay Toupin

Jay Toupin and Lou Fisch met in Seattle in the summer of 2004 through a mutual friend, and shortly after they fell in love. By the fall Lou moved to Massachusetts to be with Jay. They were married on December 9, 2004 at Worcester City Hall.  “Until the Goodridge decision, it never dawned on me that doing so would ever be possible,” Jay remembers. “We joyously embraced it.”

Jay describes the relationship as one characterized by mutual friendship and a respect for one another’s intellect. “We were together for four years, four wonderful years, and I am grateful for all of them. My favorite memories are of sitting at home on New Year’s Eve surrounded by Lou and a half dozen of our closest friends with champagne, warm conversation, and a crackling fire.” Jay and Lou spent time together in their garden, planting and landscaping. They also shared an interest in classic films, reading and travel.

While aboard the Queen Mary traveling from England to the United States in 2007, Lou began experiencing severe back pain.  After returning to the U.S., Lou visited his doctor and discovered that he had a malignant tumor in his lung. In November 2007, part of his lung was removed.

While Lou was undergoing cancer treatments in March of 2008, Jay suffered a heart attack and had to have emergency triple bypass surgery.  A month later, Jay had a stroke.  When asked how he and Lou managed during such difficult times, Jay responds, “through love and friendship.”

In May 2008, Lou’s battle with lung cancer ended and he passed away at the age of 70. Jay, now 64 and still recovering from his own health issues, was left to deal with the loss of his beloved spouse. Jay tears up as he recalls this difficult time.

But despite his pain and grief Jay says he feels like a lucky man.

Jay describes Lou as six feet tall with a strong resemblance to Tab Hunter – blue eyes, blonde hair, classic features. “Lou had a very warm nature,” Jay says breaking into a rare burst of laughter before his voice cracks. “He was kind and generous. I have been blessed to have shared my life with Lou and I have many wonderful memories.”

After Lou’s passing, a letter from the federal government was sent to Lou and Jay’s residence asking for Lou’s next of kin because the Social Security Administration did not know where to send Lou’s Social Security benefits. Jay filled out a form stating that he was Lou’s spouse, and produced their marriage certificate as well as original birth certificates and photographs of their passports. The federal government promptly sent a reply disavowing the legitimacy of Jay and Lou’s marriage. Jay is denied Lou’s Social Security and loses hundreds of dollars a month in surviving spousal benefits from Social Security -  a safety net both had paid into their whole lives. As Jay puts it, “the Defense of Marriage Act has not just created second class citizens; it has created second class marriages.”

“Having to deal with my own heart attack and stroke and then Lou’s passing in the span of three months was difficult enough.  But that was followed by a slap in the face when the federal government, which I had hoped would protect me in my old age, did not recognize the love and commitment I shared with my spouse.”

“Everyday I feel like I’m being denied basic civil rights that other couples in this country receive.”

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