Well, DOMA is dead. What does this mean for us, the heterosexual current and former husbands and wives of gays and lesbians?
It means that if our ex spouses marry someone of the same sex, the federal government will allow them to be taxed the same as other married couples. They can file a joint return and avoid the double taxation that has plagued gay couples for years. It means that if they marry someone of the same sex who is not a citizen, that person has the same rights as any other foreign born person who marries an American. It means if they are a federal employee, their same sex spouse can qualify for insurance benefits and have parity with opposite sex spouses. It means that soldiers can declare their same sex spouse as next of kin.
It doesnt mean that any state that does not recognize same sex marriage now has to do so. It only applies to the federal government.
The Defense of Marriage Act has done nothing for traditional marriages. It has only punished gay people by disaffirming their legal same sex marriages, subjecting them to high and sometime punitive taxation, and disallowing legal protections available to other married people.
Socially of course, the implications are huge. For example, its now recognized that people marry others of the same sex; so in our male/female marriages, if our spouse cheats on us with someone of the same sex, fewer people will tell us its not really cheating….
Perhaps as same sex marriage becomes more common, the social dynamic will shift for marriages and breakups such as ours. Instead of asking the heterosexual partner “how do you know?” or “What, you didnt know? We all knew…we thought you knew….” perhaps the more common question when our marriages disolve will be asked of the homosexual partner. “What were you thinking? Why did you do this? Why did you keep it a secret? You could have married someone in a real marriage….”
Of course, one size or experience does not fit all. Many people do not come to the realization that they are homosexual until later in life, after they have married. But perhaps as same sex marriage becomes more familiar to those in the legal system and counseling professions, our divorces or marriage counseling will be more focused on the individual situation, and not on the faults of the heterosexual partner for either not knowing, or telling, or not telling, or being angry, or not being angry enough.
The Supreme Court also affirmed that Proposition 8 in California, which rescinds the law allowing same sex marriages, is unconstitutional. This is in line with our position paper affirmed in 2008.
Obstacles to legalizing same sex unions do not save traditional marriages. They certainly did not save most of our marriages. Those of us who are still married to our LGBT spouses have remained married due to many reasons – commitment by both to the relationship, or for reasons of family, health, or economics.
Legalizing same sex marriages and affording those couples the same federal recognition as other married couples does not invalidate anyone elses marriage.
Many of us had “traditional” marriages – and consider those to have been invalid, because for many of us, the marriage was based on a lie and conceived as a cover, sometimes intentional at the onset, sometimes not.
Perhaps as it becomes more socially acceptable for gay people to marry each other, there will be fewer heterosexual people facing the devastating consequences that we all know so well.