A Gay in the Life for June 7, 2012

For Weekly SurgeJune 6, 2012 

Pride month is typically the busiest time of year in my life. As I write this I just got back from Gay Days in Orlando – my personal kick-off to the season. I’m already drained and feel like I need a vacation and I keep thinking I’ve got another 20-something days left before the month is over.

Through all of this, my relationship just seems to be in a rut. My partner and I seem to do the same thing day after day, week after week. We’re often too busy with work to even take any time to enjoy each other’s company – and when we do, our stress just overwhelms us and takes over our conversations. Work around the house is piling up, the yard needs work and the house seems to be in a constant state of messiness.

It reminds us of just how similar our relationship is to legally-married couples. We work, we care for each other, we help each other in times of need and we stress out around each other when we’re overwhelmed. It doesn’t change our relationship or our love for each other – it just exemplifies the challenges that married (whether legally recognized or not) couples have.

That’s why it was an exciting moment this past week when a federal appeals court in Boston ruled that DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, was unconstitutional on the first day of National Pride Month. DOMA, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, defines a marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman. Under the law, no state is required to recognize a same-sex marriage or union legally recognized in another state. It also limits recognition of legal same-sex unions for all federal purposes, including insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors’ benefits and the filing of joint tax returns. Then, in 2011 President Obama, who finally spoke out for marriage equality a few weeks ago, announced that although the law would be enforced, the Department of Justice would no longer defend it in court. The conservative-dominated House of Representatives took on the defense of the law on behalf of the federal government.

In May, a federal court in California ruled that Section 3 of the law was unconstitutional under a California tax law. According to Chris Geidner, a blogger for the Metro Weekly’s political blog, Poligot, “(U.S. District Court Judge Claudia) Wilken found that Section 3 of DOMA – the federal definition of ‘marriage’ and ‘spouse’ – ‘violates the equal protection rights of Plaintiff same-sex spouses’ and that subparagraph (C) of Section 7702B(f) of the Internal Revenue Code violates the equal protection rights of Plaintiff registered domestic partners.’ The case then moved to the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) which argued the domestic partner statute, claiming that “domestic partner” is not necessarily a partner of the same sex and therefore does not fall into a protected class. According to Polilot, the decision has been stayed, or put on hold, during an appeal of Wilken’s decision if one is sought.

In the other case, Plaintiffs in Boston challenged Section 3 of the act as well, claiming it was discriminatory because Social Security, veterans and other benefits were denied to same-sex couples married in Massachusetts. Massachusetts became the first state in the U.S. (sixth jurisdiction in the world) to legalize same-sex marriage as a result of the Supreme Judicial Court of Mass. ruling that it was unconstitutional under the state’s constitution to allow only heterosexual couples to marry.

According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, while this is a “landmark ruling” it may not have any real affect on states without same-sex marriage rights, even after reaching the Supreme Court which the case is expected to head to next. It does make clear that “DOMA is a discriminatory law for which there is no justification,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Croakley. “It is unconstitutional for the federal government to create a system of first- and second- class marriages.” The case was also decided by two judges appointed by Republican presidents and one appointed by a Democratic president, which also shows a change in the political tide surrounding the issue.

The Boston case is expected to reach the Supreme Court before a California case could. Also in February, an appeals court in San Francisco found that voters couldn’t deprive gay couples of the right to marry in a 2-1 decision, upholding a 2010 ruling by a federal judge that Proposition 8 violated equal protection rights of gay and lesbian couples. While no states would have to change their marriage laws if the Boston case is affirmed by the Supreme Court – a confirmation in the California case could force all states to legalize same-sex marriage.

Most people agree that the issue of same-sex marriage, like interracial marriage before it, has to end up in the Supreme Court for an ultimate decision, and the California and Boston cases play an integral role. If DOMA is ruled unconstitutional at the Supreme Court level – I think it will be difficult for the same justices to find that same-sex couples shouldn’t have the right to marry. Six states and the District of Columbia issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples – Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire and Vermont.

“If the Supreme Court grants review in that (California) case, then there is the potential there for the Supreme Court to say there is a fundamental right to marry from which gay couples are being excluded and it could flip all of the states that don’t have same-sex marriage to require them to recognize same-sex marriage,” said Kenji Yoshino, a professor of Constitutional Law at New York University School of Law in Manhattan during the Chronicle interview.

We’re taking the steps and just like our own marriages although not legally recognized – although we may feel like we’ve hit a rut often, changes are coming and we have a long history of ending up on the right side of love and justice – not hate and separation.

SIN OF OMISSION

In the last column I wrote about the grand opening of Ru Mors at Kono in Myrtle Beach and listed other LGBT, or often referred to as alternative, bars and nightclubs along the Grand Strand. Inadvertently, I missed another club that opened its doors this year.

Luna Blue Lounge & Bar opened its doors on April 20 at 510 North Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach. According to the venue’s Web site, www. lunablueclub-myrtlebeach.com, the club is opened Thursday through Sunday each week with an “Alternative Night” on Fridays. According to a reader, the club appears to cater mainly to the local gay Hispanic crowd, but is welcoming to everyone. For more information ,call 808-9524.

OUT & ABOUT

Saturday, June 9 – Join the members of CLAWS, Coastal Leather Allegiance to Wisdom and Service, on Saturday at Time Out! for the group’s monthly Happy Hour Social. Time Out! is at 520 Eighth Avenue North in Myrtle Beach. For more information visit www.clawsllc.com.

Have a thought, comment or Out & About event? Send Chris Rudisill an e-mail to SouthernGayWriter@gmail.com. You can also follow along on Facebook.com @SouthernGayWriter for more news and events.

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