The gay marriage paradox: as acceptance rises, so do legal barriers
President Obama's embrace of gay marriage mirrors growing support among many Americans, but states continue to ban it. The US Supreme Court could play a key role.
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Support has risen in every state, Mr. Lewis reports – even Mississippi, which is at the bottom with 19 percent. But that’s up from 14 percent in 2004. In 2011 California, which voted against gay marriage four years ago via a measure known as Proposition 8, registered near the top nationally in its support of same-sex marriage, at 55 percent.Skip to next paragraph
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“It seems clear that if California were to redo Prop. 8, it would lose this time,” Lewis says.
For Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis (no relation) – a couple who married in San Francisco during a brief period in 2004 when gay marriages were allowed, then again in 2008 – the one consolation in the ongoing battle over Prop. 8 is that it did not retroactively invalidate their marriage.
Attitudes have changed, says Mr. Lewis, who recalls a nurse asking, “Who are you?” when he accompanied Mr. Gaffney and his mother to a hospital emergency room a decade ago. Today, the explanation would be much easier, he says. He also points to his 15-year-old niece in Chicago as a sign of how times have changed.
“It’s absolutely normal to her to have two uncles who are married,” Lewis says.
Kathy Bush and Mary Ritchie, too, have seen acceptance of same-sex relationships grow. The couple, living together in Framingham, Mass., since 1991 and married since 2004, have two sons, ages 11 and 13.
The women say they’ve experienced largely supportive relations with neighbors, co-workers, and other parents at school. Ms. Bush, a stay-at-home mom whose duties include providing shuttle service to baseball and soccer games, will head the parent-teacher organization at their sons’ middle school this fall. Ms. Ritchie, a state trooper, serves on a school council.
The two have also joined a legal battle to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Under federal law, Ritchie says, their marriage “means nothing,” noting that there are some 1,000 protections to which she and her family are not entitled.
Take federal taxes. Because they are not married in the eyes of Washington, they cannot file a joint return. The distinction has cost them some $35,000 in extra federal taxes since 2004, they say. “That’s a lot to us,” Bush says. That’s money that could go into a college fund for the boys, she says.
Another example: If Ritchie were to die in the line of duty, DOMA makes Bush ineligible for federal death and education benefits that would otherwise be available.