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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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Waiting for the Discrimination to End

Photograph of Christina Renaud & Shelley Renaud

Christina Renaud & Shelley Renaud

When Christina Renaud moved to Plymouth, Massachusetts to start a job as an equipment operator at the local power plant, she didn’t know anyone else in town. She ate dinner alone at a local restaurant on week nights, and it was at that very restaurant that she met Shelley, then a waitress and bartender. The two women began to dine together, and three years later, in September 2007, they wed.

Today Shelley, 30, and Christina, 31, share their home in Plymouth, and they cherish the companionship of married life. Family and friends frequently visit to spend time with the couple and their two brown and black puggles. Christina explains that even though her work schedule can be erratic and Shelley now manages a medical office, “We find time to walk our dogs together every day. We eat dinner together every single night. We work out together. Our routine is simple but enjoyable.”

The federal Defense of Marriage Act, however, ensures that the simplicity ends there, particularly with respect to the couple’s financial security. Christina pays an additional employee contribution to her employer-based health insurance so that it will cover her wife’s medical care, but because the federal government denies them the rights of opposite-sex married couples, Christina is obliged to pay income taxes on the presumed value of Shelley’s health insurance plan, and she is also taxed for every dollar that she and her employer pay toward Shelley’s coverage. Furthermore, DOMA denies the couple the right to file their federal taxes jointly. Christina earns significantly more than Shelley and by not averaging their incomes at the federal level, the couple loses thousands of dollars per year.

The Renauds also worry about the fact that they cannot depend on Social Security spousal or survivor benefits in the event of future disability or death. “We’re frustrated by the inequity and the anxiety it brings,” says Shelley. Christina explains, “Should something happen to me down the road, Shelley would experience a huge drop in income if she cannot access my Social Security. We’re waiting for the discrimination to end, and we’re hoping that nothing happens to either of us in the meantime.”

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