Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Bright, Shining Light

Today, the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) filed a suit in federal court in Boston, MA to challenge the denial of critical federal benefits to same-sex couples.

Yes. It's time for the Supreme Court.

Years ago, when GLAD was pulling together a group of plaintiffs to challenge the marriage laws in Massachusetts, many said it was not time. Many said, we are still lacking in basic rights- how can we go for marriage? It'll put us behind by decades.

Today, we are approaching the fifth anniversary of marriage equality in our state. We have recently had an unprecedented majority of House and Senate co-signers for a Transgender equality bill and look to celebrate it's passage later this year. We have secured dollars in a difficult state budget for LGBT youth, AIDS funding, and money to address issues facing LGBT seniors.

We have pushed the envelope, no question. And we will continue to.

The lawsuit addresses Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act- and only section three. It targets the rights and protections denied in Social Security, federal income tax, federal employees' and retirees' benefits, and in the issuance of passports.

Only in MA and CT, where marriage is recognized by the state. For over 200 years, the federal government has not interfered with state's rights around marriage- until DOMA.

I find in my travels, that people assume that being married in MA means married on a federal level. It does not.

This action does not effect any other state. It will not repeal DOMA or every state's right to have some ridiculous anti-equality law on their books, as many do. It does, however, put a bright, shining light on the inequalities our families face even in the state where we have so much.

Shining that light, as Mary Bonauto said, should generate support in all the states. When the country gets to know the plaintiff couples, when they meet the State Trooper, Mary Ritchie who puts her life on the line every day for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Her wife is not eligible for the full line-of-duty benefits for surviving spouses should she die in the line of duty. Or Herbert Burtis, 78 years old who lost his partner of 60 years last fall. He is denied the additional money his husband's social security would pay him if he was a recognized spouse.

After 60 years together, sharing lives, income, a home... nothing. But the married heterosexual couple in MA or CT- no questions asked.

These stories, this case, is about that bright, shining light. It is about understanding why we fight for equality every day. It's about why we need to continue the fight on all levels, in every state.

Years ago, people thought the marriage fight was wrong. Today, we have two states with marriage equality, and are fast approaching many more to have the same decency and fairness for all their citizen. Some states are still fighting to have civil rights bills.

The movement forward is never easy. As we enjoy these debates in this country, people are hung in others for the suspicion of being homosexual. Should we stop our rights to further theirs first?

Or do we all keep moving, the best we can, with the resources we have, to tell the stories that will ultimately make the difference for all.

I say, move forward.

And with Mary Bonauto in charge? We're not going to lose.

No one will lose.

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Blogger Sue J said...

Sara, you know you will always feel you could be doing more or that you should be doing something different. But I think that Massachusetts is positioned to take the lead on this, and that will bring change for those of us in other states -- and in other countries, as well.

In Maryland, our governor is pushing for the state legislature to enact changes this Spring that would provide health benefits to same sex domestic partners of state employees. Maybe if they don't feel like they're moving forward alone, the legislators will have the confidence to make a difference.

We of course, selfishly, wait anxiously to see what happens. And my co-workers are astonished when I point out the benefits that they take for granted and that we as a couple for over 10 years are denied.

We all need to keep moving forward, wherever we are ... it lifts everyone up.

6:52 PM  
Anonymous lez zorba said...

Completely agree about moving forward. Forward movement begets forward movement, except when it doesn't - which is sometimes (Prop 8 in Ca.) but hopefully that is only temporary. Onward!

10:56 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

well, lemme tell ya, there are some incredibly negative things being said about GLAD and this lawsuit- painfully familiar.

7:41 AM  
Blogger Sue J said...

I know folks in some other states think this is just giving ammunition for the fundies. But when you stop moving forward because you're afraid of how the fundies will react ... they win.

9:04 AM  
Anonymous below 14th said...

i too have been reading the blogs and articles criticizing this lawsuit and find them absurd.

the time to ask for equal human rights is ALWAYS NOW.

i'm 31 and because of efforts like this lawsuit and because of CT and Mass and even Prop 8 - I know I will see equal federal rights in my lifetime. There's no question.

Small steps, big steps, steps back-whatever. We have to keep moving. Now.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous donald said...

with mary benauto at the helm, it will be an articulate arguement and ahe will be like a bulldog fighting for our rights!

always moving forward!

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