The day I married my spouse was the most beautiful and joyful of my life. We were surrounded by family and friends and exchanged our vows in the historic church where I grew up. Friends and family told us it was the most beautiful and genuine wedding they had ever been to. Perhaps they were just being nice, or perhaps they were telling the truth. Regardless, our wedding was different than most, because our marriage is treated differently than others.
Because my wife and I married in Massachusetts, our marriage is recognized by the state. Unfortunately, because of the Defense of Marriage Act, we are still discriminated against.
My wife works on a research team at the Department of Veterans Affairs. She is a federal employee, which affords her a number of benefits including a pension and retirement plan, and great health insurance. In the state of Massachusetts, there is a requirement that every citizen have health insurance. Neither of my employers offers health insurance. Our combined income is considered when applying for state health insurance programs, and thus I do not qualify. Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, I cannot be added to my wife’s insurance through her employer. This means that we pay $400 per month out of pocket for a minimal individual health insurance plan.
Perhaps the more pertinent differences in our treatment as a married couple became evident this past year. My wife is a Captain in the Air Force Reserve, and was deployed to Afghanistan for six and a half months of this year. In the week’s notice we had prior to her departure, there was a lot to get done. She needed more uniforms and other items that are only available at the stores on base. While she was wrapping up her work at the VA, you would think I could run those errands for her, right? Wrong. Because she is considered “single” by the military, I do not have a dependent card. This means I cannot use any of the services on the base, including the gas station, commissary, or gym. I cannot even get onto the base without a sponsor.
This also means that on her military legal paperwork I cannot be listed as “primary next of kin,” because we are a same-sex couple. This means that if the woman I married and have committed my life to were injured or killed while deployed, I would not be the first to be told. And I would receive no spousal survival benefits. None.
It also means that, during her deployment, we received no separation pay or BAH, which is normally afforded to married couples and can be hundreds of dollars a month. A heterosexual married couple would have access to education and employment benefits, included in the GI bill. My wife cannot share those benefits. This means that we have taken out student loans for my seminary education, an expense that would have been unnecessary otherwise.
The moral of this story is this: we are a legally married, loving, and committed couple, and we are discriminated against. My spouse is an officer in the USAF, a federal employee, and is treated differently than her colleagues and fellow Airmen. It is as if our marriage does not exist, because of the Defense of Marriage Act.
If DOMA were repealed, my family could focus more on its service to this country, and less on how we are treated differently. If DOMA were repealed, we could worry less about financial issues and have more security that our family is protected. If DOMA were repealed, it would mean that our marriage would be seen for what it is: a loving, genuine, joy-filled and faithful one. It would mean that we would not be treated as second-class citizens.