Six years ago I married my longtime girlfriend, Kris Martini ’95, in western Massachusetts where we first met as Smith soccer teammates a decade and a half earlier. My best friend from childhood, an ordained minister, performed the ceremony on the deck of a historic mill while sixty friends and family members who’d flown in from across the country bore witness to our public promise to love and support each other.
|Jen VanderWeyden ’93 (right) with wife Kris Martini ’95 on their wedding day.
As the reigning law of the land, DOMA has assigned second-class status to my marriage to Kris and rendered it legally unequal to heterosexual marriage. Congress’s act has also granted state and federal governments the right to deny Kris and me—and now our daughter—the more than 1,100 federal and, on average, 300-plus state rights and benefits of civil marriage.
DOMA also means that if one of us dies, the other will have to pay estate taxes on the house that we own together—a financial burden not levied on opposite-sex spouses. Moreover, “married people” in America automatically receive Social Security benefits when a spouse dies. But under DOMA, if Kris or I die, the other spouse will be deemed ineligible for Social Security benefits. Other marriage rights currently denied to Kris and me: We can’t file our federal tax return jointly, though there is move afoot by the IRS to require state domestic partners to treat their partner’s income as joint property.
|VanderWeyden and Martini with baby Alexandra at home in Washington state|
We also don’t qualify for the federal definition of Family Leave—only “legally married” people are entitled to job security and unpaid leave to take care of a sick spouse or their spouse’s child. We wouldn’t be considered next-of-kin for medical decisions if one of us became too sick to be competent, and we don’t automatically receive the right to decide whether the one who dies first will be cremated or buried.
DOMA also impacts parenting rights. For much of Kris’s pregnancy, we believed that, since our marriage isn’t recognized in Washington, I would have to apply to the state after Alex’s birth for a second-parent adoption to be legally regarded as her other mother. This meant a costly and potentially lengthy delay in receiving my parental rights, an obstacle we’ve watched friends deal with stoically because at least we live in a state where we’re allowed to apply for government recognition of our family status. The same is not true in too many other places across the country.