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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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Their Love Conquers All - Except DOMA

Photograph of Daisy Chamberlain & Jamie Chamberlain

Daisy Chamberlain & Jamie Chamberlain

Since they first met five years ago, Daisy Chamberlain, 29, and Jamie Chamberlain, 32, have loved and supported each other through circumstances that would have had lesser couples running to divorce court, or at least to a good couples’ counselor.

To begin, at the time of their first date, Daisy was a member of a medieval re-enactment group, and they both knew it doesn’t get much geekier than hanging out in the woods, reliving the wild and woolly days of Robin Hood and Joan of Arc in puffy hats and tunics. Nonetheless, says Jamie, “I married her anyway.”

When Jamie developed an interest in alpacas and took a part-time job at an alpaca farm, Daisy wound up working there with her. They even took one of the cute and quirky creatures home, though they’ve since abandoned the dream of having their own alpaca farm. “If you’re looking to buy an alpaca,” Jamie notes, “we can give you a good deal on one.”

Then there was their first wedding anniversary celebration on Sept. 19: a fancy take-out dinner where Jamie, who loathes the sight of raw meat, managed to enjoy her scallops despite watching Daisy cut into a tasty filet mignon. “Luckily, the light was dim enough that I couldn’t really see the meat juice,” says Jamie.

But there’s one area where Jamie can’t support Daisy, and it’s no laughing matter.  Because they’re married in their home state of Vermont, Jamie is able to cover Daisy on the health insurance she gets through her full-time job at a forge, where she makes lamps and lighting fixtures. But DOMA prevents Daisy from accessing Jamie’s federal Health Savings Account (HSA). The HSA allows Jamie to deposit a portion of her earnings to use for medical expenses without it being subjected to federal income tax.

The denial of this benefit comes at great expense to the couple. Daisy suffers from a thyroid condition called Hashimoto’s disease; she takes medication and must visit the doctor frequently to have her medication levels monitored. Were it not for DOMA, they could pay those expenses from the HSA and, by Daisy’s estimation, save a significant amount of tax money on Daisy’s medical expenses, most of which they must pay out of pocket because they have a high-deductible health insurance plan.

“It’s not a lot of money that we’re talking about as far as that figure if someone else was to look at it, but to us because we’re young and we’re just starting our lives together here … a couple thousand dollars makes a difference to us,” says Daisy.

“I don’t think I’m the main breadwinner of the family but I want to provide what I can,” says Jamie. “I’m thankful that I can give her health insurance through my employer but I have a neighbor that lives across the street that works at the same place I do and her husband has access to the [Health] Savings Account. It’s not right that my wife can’t have the same benefit.”

Daisy works as paramedic, attends nursing school, provides homecare to an elderly woman, and has a part-time job at an orchard. In addition to her full-time work at the forge, Jamie also works part-time at the alpaca farm and the same orchard. They’re working to pay off school loans and meet expenses on a combined income of about $50,000 a year. But they’re hopeful that when Daisy finishes school and starts her nursing career, they’ll have more financial stability. That will enable them to buy a house and give more serious consideration to starting a family, a topic they’ve already discussed quite a bit.

“Right now it seems to be that we’ve landed on adopting through the foster care system,” says Daisy. “I would really hope that we can do that within the next six years so that I don’t feel too old [to be a parent].”

“Well,” says Jamie, ever the supportive and mischievous spouse, “I guess if you have kids, I’ll have some, too.”

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