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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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They Had No Idea Who I Had Lost

Photograph of Rick Munroe

Rick Munroe

Rick Munroe (pictured on right) was 40 years old, a pastor at a conservative church, and still struggling with living his life openly and honestly as a gay man when he met Kevin McCann in December 2002. Instantly drawn to each other, they struck up a conversation. So strong was their connection, in fact, that during their first date shortly after that first meeting, Rick turned to Kevin and confessed, “I think I’m falling in love with you,” to which Kevin responded, “You say that like it’s a bad thing!”

“With that,” says Rick, “we were off on a wonderful journey.”

It wasn’t easy at first. Rick had to come out to his family, including his three children, and the church where he served as a pastor, which was not affirming of gay people. He resigned his pastorate, but eventually found a church community that was supportive of his and Kevin’s relationship. Kevin offered Rick his love and support throughout this difficult time.

It wasn’t long before Rick and Kevin were finishing each other’s sentences or saying out loud what the other person was thinking. The couple shared an abundance of interests and hobbies, from visiting comedy clubs and attending James Taylor concerts to doing yard work and treasure hunting at flea markets, yard sales and thrift stores. Last year, the couple became bowling enthusiasts, honing their skills at the local alley two to three times a week. They also enjoyed traveling and made multiple trips to Ireland, where Kevin’s family is from.

Kevin’s daughter grew to love Rick just as Rick’s three kids grew to love Kevin. “We loved our kids, our family and friends, and loved spending time with them,” says Rick.

On Oct. 7, 2006, Rick and Kevin married in a ceremony at Pilgrim United Church of Christ in their hometown of New Bedford, surrounded by their children and a few close friends. One of Rick’s daughters read a passage that she wrote for the wedding that began “It doesn’t matter who you love, but how you love.” The tuxedoed grooms wore complementary vests and ties – Kevin’s a shade of green, Rick’s a shade of blue. Privately, after the ceremony, they blended green and blue sand in a vase as a symbol that they would never again be separated.

“It was beautiful and we were all in tears,” Rick recalls of their wedding. “It was truly a dream come true.” 

But after eight happy years together – nearly four as a legally married couple – tragedy struck when Kevin passed away unexpectedly in August 2010. He was just 45 years old. Rick was devastated, although he is grateful for the time he and Kevin and their family shared.

“Two weeks before Kevin died we got to take a ride to Pennsylvania to see and hold my oldest daughter’s brand new baby girl, our first grandchild,” he says. “I’m so glad we have pictures of that.”
Unfortunately, the federal government doesn’t recognize their family because of DOMA. Rick learned this the hard way, when Kevin’s sister informed Rick he was entitled to a Social Security death benefit of $250.00 as a surviving spouse. Kevin had been out of work for five months prior to his death due to an injury, and so no longer had a life insurance policy. Rick was handling the funeral expenses and estate issues on his own. The death benefit would have helped defray those costs. When Rick contacted the Social Security office, an agency representative took down his information and informed him of what benefits he was eligible to receive then put him hold to transfer him to someone who could process his claim. A short while later, the representative got back on the line and apologetically informed Rick he wasn’t entitled to any benefits because the federal government did not recognize his marriage to Kevin.

”I wanted to cry,” Rick says. “I had already encountered people who felt that my loss was insignificant because my marriage wasn’t real in their eyes. They had no idea what I had, who I had, and who I had lost.”

While the incident was upsetting, Rick must focus his energy elsewhere. He’ll soon be traveling to Ireland to fulfill Kevin’s wish to have his ashes scattered in the country of his ancestry.

“He asked that I take his ashes, like we did his father’s, and scatter them in Ireland. As hard as it will be to go to Ireland without him, I will keep my promise,” says Rick. “Kevin was my world.”

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