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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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The Family:  Michael, Carlos and Linda

Photograph of Carlos Tejera  & Michael Anthony

Carlos Tejera & Michael Anthony

Michael Anthony and Carlos Tejera have been together 31 years and married since June 2004.  They met on their commute home from work one day on Boston’s Red Line and have been together ever since.  Michael is the director of quality control for a software company.  Carlos has just retired after 25 years of social work.

They bought a house together in Dorchester in 1984 and started raising rescue dogs.  Their current charge is a pretty Chihuahua named Linda who is treated like royalty.

Michael and Carlos’s relationship and marriage have been received with unconditional support and love from family, friends, and colleagues.  Parents and siblings from both sides of the family gathered to celebrate after they bought their home.  To Michael’s many nieces and nephews Carlos is “Uncle Carlos.”  In 2007, Michael’s mother fell ill.  With Carlos’s help and emotional support, Michael and his siblings took care of her the last six months of her life.

“Carlos and I have a deep and abiding understanding of each other’s nature,” Michael says.  “We read each other’s minds; finish each other’s sentences.”

Both men are very active in the community.  Self-described “screaming liberal Democrats,” Michael and Carlos served as Ward 15 Democratic Committee members for several years and participated as delegates at a number of state Democratic conventions.

In April of 2009, two years after his mother passed away, Michael had his own brush with death.  At the end of a work day, while waiting for Carlos to pick him up, he suddenly felt very sick.  Carlos drove Michael home as his conditioned worsened.  Once home, they called for an ambulance.  Ten minutes after arriving at the Beth Israel emergency room Michael blacked out and didn’t regain consciousness until two weeks later.  He was diagnosed with sepsis, a life-threatening bacterial infection which eventually led to widespread organ failure.  At one point, the medical team advised Carlos that he should begin considering whether or not to take Michael off life support. 

After several weeks on dialysis and life support Michel’s condition improved.  While in recovery, he began to worry about what would have happened to Carlos had he not survived.  “After building a life together for over 30 years, and legally married for 6 years it’s impossible for me to understand why Carlos wouldn’t be allowed Social Security survivor benefits.  I have the higher income and the payments to him would be significant.”

In Carlos’s case, since he’s retired, those benefits could mean the difference between keeping or losing the home he and Michael lived in for 26 years. 

Fully recovered from his illness, Michael still has concerns about DOMA:  “Our household is just as much a family unit as a heterosexual couples’ and yet, thanks to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, we have to pay more in income taxes.  And, of course, there’s the very real emotional stigma we feel because our relationship is being ignored by federal statute.”

Despite the unequal treatment they receive now, both are optimistic about the future:  “We have every hope that DOMA will be overturned,” Michael says.  “Meanwhile, we have our health, we’re looking forward to our next vacation and spending the rest of our lives together.”

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