Married But Not Equal (Full Episode)

>> IN THE LIFE is funded in part by and by these funders and by the annual support of IN THE LIFE members like you >> Eight years ago in 2004, Massachusetts became the first state in the union to legalize same sex marriage Since then, five more states and the District of Columbia have followed Today, 35 million Americans live in states where same sex marriages are legal And more than 130,000 same sex couples report being married >> We have a typical family >> We’re a family just like lots of other families >> It’s about being recognized >> Although these couples are married under state law, their marriages lack federal recognition and protections because of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA >> This is not prejudiced legislation >> DOMA violates the Constitution >> Out of such relationships, emotional bonding oftentimes does not take place >> Tonight, IN THE LIFE examines the impact of DOMA and the battle over DOMA in the courts and in Congress >> You know there’s a time when you say, you know, enough is enough and you stand up >> Change is happening across America As marriage equality is slowly being won state-by-state… >> What a day in San Francisco! >> … more same sex couples are sharing their vows and making lifetime commitments >> When marriage became legal, we wanted to be married on what we consider our anniversary, December 22nd It was a small intimate group of people and it was wonderful >> We got married, soon after it became legal in the commonwealth of Massachusetts >> We got married in 2008 in San Francisco >> Do you remember the date? >> Do I remember the date? [laughs] Um, July something? >> I know we were getting married and I was excited about all those things, but I didn’t realize how much it meant >> Now we can share our relationship and be viewed as a couple >> It validates your love in a way And for us, it was a piece of paper, but it’s almost magic because we had been dreaming about it forever >> I felt completely legitimized that what we had was as good as what everyone else had >> I now pronounce you married brides >> Of course, then when you stop to think about it, you don’t have exactly the same thing >> What these couples discovered is that despite being called “marriage”, their commitments are not equal under the law This is due to an Act of Congress called the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA >> For federal tax purposes, a marriage means only a legal union between a man and a woman >> I guess we were a little naïve thinking that okay, we’re married, we can file jointly, now that Connecticut recognizes it >> I was in denial for sure >> Yeah, yeah And that was a real big shock when federally, we still had to divide our family >> We do everything together as a family It’s really about team Artis and how we can support and make each other stronger >> A quarter cup of sugar, Nagee >> Suzanne and Geraldine Artis live in Connecticut with their three sons Because of DOMA, Suzanne and Geraldine cannot file federal taxes jointly as a married couple Each year, they divide up their children and decide who will claim them as dependents >> It’s beyond disturbing >> That’s something we have to deal with every single year >> She put us together on the state one because Connecticut has marriage >> We have to first prepare dummy tax returns on the federal level as married because most states derive their tax information from the federal return, so same sex couples now can have to prepare four to up to seven tax returns in their household just to get the right state and federal income tax result >> We definitely have to hire someone because we don’t understand all the legal

ramifications >> It’s too complicated for us If it were simpler, and we could file all together, I think we actually could figure out how to do it ourselves >> If the Artis’ were a heterosexual couple filing jointly, they would pay significantly less in federal taxes >> We’re homeschooling our kids We could use that money to continue to buy supplies and provide better resources for our chldren >> Geraldine and Suzanne Artis are a perfect example of a very hard working couple They make this enormous commitment to their sons, but because of DOMA they are paying close to $1500 extra a year in federal income taxes They want the integrity of their family to be respected >> In an effort to fight back against the discrimination they’ve faced because of DOMA, Suzanne and Geraldine decided to become plaintiffs in the lawsuit Pedersen v the Office of Personnel Management >> We’re forced to file as single people >> This is one of two suits being waged by the organization Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, also known as GLAD >> It’s just about sharing who we are, and people can know that we’re a family just like lots of other families There’s not as much difference as I think people try to imagine >> Another plaintiff in GLAD’s Pederson lawsuit is Joanne Pedersen and her wife Ann Meitzen Joanne worked for the federal government in the Office of Naval Intelligence for over 30 years >> We’ve been together for almost 14 years I retired in August of 2008 When I retired, Ann could not be the beneficiary or receive my retirement benefits >> I developed hypersensitivity pnemonitis and chronic bronchitis as a result of exposure to mold and fungus spores at my job And I had recurring pneumonias about every 6 weeks >> Had she been able to go on my medical insurance back then, I think that she would have retired at that point But that was not something she could do because I was a federal retiree and DOMA did not allow me to add her to my health insurance >> My partner at work worried about me terribly At one point she said to me, “Can’t you just quit?” And I said, “I have no health insurance if I quit I have nothing.” >> I was concerned she was going to die, and the thought of that was something I never want to face >> We finally decided that I was going to retire when I turned 62 My social security check is $1425 a month $850 a month goes for my health insurance, that’s 58% of my social security >> If Ann were able to go on Joanne’s health insurance, they would save over $400 a month That’s over $4800 a year >> Even though I’m retired, I’m doing part time work because I feel like I have to pay for my health insurance >> It’s not just about the money It’s about being recognized as a full partner, a full part of Joanne’s life, and this in some ways makes me “less than” >> It’s about being fair You know, we’ve all paid into the system We should all reap the same benefits >> The distinct honor of presenting to you, the President of the United States >> The origin of DOMA goes back nearly two decades to 1996 In that year, President Bill Clinton signed DOMA into law >> My fellow Americans… >> In 1996, the climate in Congress was one of fear >> Are we so wise today, that we are ready to reject 5,000 years of recorded history? >> A ruling in Hawaii made it seem likely that same sex marriage would soon become legal in that state >> People in the country and in Congress woke up and thought, wow, we can’t let couples from Hawaii, or from other parts of the country, go to Hawaii, get married there, and then claim the same legal rights and protections as other people >> Now, this is not prejudiced legislation It’s not mean-spirited or exclusionary >> Out of such relationships, emotional bonding oftentimes does not take place, and many such relationships do not result in the establishment of families >> Ignorance, stereotype prevailed >> President Clinton has acknowledged that it

was a big mistake to sign the bill when he did, but it was a different political climate That’s not to justify it of course, but same-sex marriage was not legal anywhere in this country >> DOMA passed overwhelmingly in Congress by a vote of 85 to 14 in the Senate and 342 to 67 in the House Only a few lone voices spoke out against the bill Gerry Studds, the first openly gay Congressman, was one of those voices >> Mr. Speaker I’ve served in this house for 24 years I have been elected 12 times, the last 6 times as an openly gay man My partner Dean whom a great many of you know and I think a great many of you love is in a situation which no spouse of any member of this House is in, and the same is true of my other two openly gay collegues This is something which I don’t think most people realize >> Gerry’s husband, Dean Hara, is now a plaintiff in GLAD’s other lawsuit against DOMA, Gill v. The Office of Personnel Management >> When the Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996, I had no idea that we’d ever be able to be married, which we were 8 years later in 2004 >> Little did I know that I would then become a widower two years later >> I lost the person that my life revolved around for the last 16 years I lost the man who loved me, and I lost the man that I loved >> He fought against the ignorance and indifference and bigotry at great personal cost >> We knew that we would still be treated as 2nd-class citizens at the federal level Any of the benefits that Gerry would have had as a retired federal employee were still denied to his legal spouse, and he knew that when it came to estate planning, estate issues, tax issues, that we would be discriminated against >> Despite Gerry’s 24 years of public service, Dean was denied access to Gerry’s federal pension and health insurance >> After a lifetime of working, to be told that you’ve lost the love of your life and also a big chunk of your economic security because you can’t have the social security survivor benefit that you both paid for your entire working lives is… it’s adding a deep insult and hardship to what is already a profound injury in losing your spouse >> The time has come to challenge a discriminatory federal law… >> The GLAD case that Dean is involved with, Gill v. The Office of Personnel Management, stands to be pivotal in the efforts to repeal DOMA >> In 2004, when same sex couples started marrying here in Massachusetts, the consequences started becoming clear immediately, and our phones started ringing almost immediately We wanted to really shine a light on the discrimination that same-sex married couples were facing >> Well, it feels like we’re second-class citizens >> Jim is not eligible to be on my health insurance because the federal government does not recognize our marriage >> Because they are married to someone of the same sex, they will be disqualified from each and every federal protection under law There are 1,138 such laws that take marital status into account This case, should we prevail, will only affect states in which marriages for same sex couples exist, does not impact state laws >> Another influential case is Perry v. Brown, a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which eliminated the right for same-sex couples to marry in that state >> If the Perry case did go up to the Supreme Court, the case might have implications for DOMA, but it would really depend on how the court ruled, the basis for its ruling There are a lot of variables >> The Gill case by virtue of the fact that it’s the first in this pipeline is most likely to be the case that reaches the Supreme Court >> Today, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit… >> A different kind of legal effort is underway in Massachusetts, where Attorney General Martha Coakley has challenged DOMA’s constitutionality in a companion to the Gill case But Coakley is not suing on behalf of any individual She is suing on behalf of her state >> Since 2004, we’ve had over 20,000 same- sex marriages in Massachusetts, and the federal government is actually making Massachusetts discriminate against its citizens If you really look closely at that 1996 law and the reasons that were given, none of the promotions about protecting the stability of

marriage and making sure that traditional marriages are protected, none of that has proven to be true in a state like Massachusetts >> DOMA is an incursion on traditional federalism balances that provide that the federal government defers to the states as to who can marry >> The Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, which covers the northeast United States, agreed with Coakley and held DOMA unconstitutional >> This morning I am proud to sign a law that will bring an end to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell >> As federal employees, military families are also affected by DOMA After the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which allows gays and lesbians to serve openly, these inequalities are starting to come to light >> The repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” means that now gay and lesbian service members can be open about their relationships, about their marriages, and so that has allowed them to bring forward their stories and also to claim benefits that they would be entitled to if they were in a heterosexual marriage >> My name is Tracy Cooper Harris, and this is my wife Maggie I knew there was something special about Maggie from the get- go After we got married and I started seeing the effects of DOMA, it was very frustrating >> Tracy is a Military Veteran She served from 1991 until 2003 when she returned from active duty in the Middle East >> This is my old supervisor, he’s actually about to retire… >> I know that she really enjoyed her job, and she did a good job I’ve seen some of the medals She continues to want to serve our community, our country, in whatever ways that she can >> I just recently got diagnosed with MS I have this disease, and it’s not pretty, alright I knew that Maggie was going to have a lot of stuff that she was going to have to deal with >> Tracey wanted to settle some of these end of life things, so when we started hitting some of these road blocks it was difficult Tra thought that they might deny adding me as her beneficiary, but she figured, we might as well ask >> They received a response that they had been denied Maggie could not receive disability compensation, health insurance, and other benefits >> The benefits that we are fighting for for Maggie are the same benefits that a heterosexual couple would get It’s more about Maggie than even about me, and I need to make sure she’s taken care of if something happens to me and right now, she’s not And that is really scary >> The couple also discovered that Maggie cannot be buried in a Veterans Cemetery with Tracey >> If a state veteran’s cemetery takes federal funds, they have to abide by federal rules For the VA to tell me, “sure, we’ll go ahead and bury you but not bury your wife”, it was hard It was really hard I fought for my country I got married I did everything right So why is my marriage being treated differently than my other friends’ who are veterans marriages? >> Tracey and Maggie appealed the VA’s denial of benefits and enlisted the help of the Southern Poverty Law Center >> If the federal government recognized their marriage, it’s an additional $125 a month that Tracey and Maggie would receive It would also mean that Tracey and Maggie would be able to be buried together Just all the benefits that a veteran and his or her spouse would receive >> The types of benefits that are blocked by DOMA are access to the military’s health insurance, tricare, access to increased payments for housing allowances, travel assistance, deployment assistance, deployment support, access to the base, a military ID card to go in and shop at commissaries and exchanges The reason that the military provides this high level of support and benefits for family members is because family readiness is mission readiness You can’t serve well if you are worried about your family back home or if you’re worried about whether or not you’re just going to be able to make your bills at the end of the month >> Eventually the Supreme Court will have to decide these issues It is a core principal of equal protection that under our constitution that similarly situated people should be treated the same >> Some couples are even fighting for their right to stay together in the United States >> We are Mark and Frederic, and we met in April of 1990 here in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania We have a typical family, the two of us We have four children,

three boys, one girl, a dog and a cat >> It was love at first sight The first moment I saw Mark, his beautiful smile, I was just smitten I remember every time we had to part from each other, and that was heartbreaking >> Flying from the States to Europe and back and forth for seven years Finally Fred was able to get a job in Harrisburg, so then we became basically living as a family His work visa actually ended in 2004 >> We actually were planning to take our family to France, until we realized at that time, that the French system would not recognize the adoption of our children >> To legally stay with his family in the United States, Fred acquired a student visa and went back to school from 2004 to 2011 However, they cannot continue with the financial burden of paying tuition >> We’ve been together for 22 years Every day has been a struggle, because we’ve been denied our simple rights of living together You know, this is our happiness This is the pursuit of our happiness We have to stand up and say, you know >> We’ve had enough >> We’ve had enough, so we applied for a green card through marriage Not so long ago, we got the reply saying that our application was denied >> All of our paperwork was in line and perfectly submitted It was denied based on the fact that we are two men >> I don’t know what my status is as far as immigration, but at least we’re appealing >> If DOMA is struck down then we’re fine If DOMA is upheld, then of course the immigration has no choice but to deny us officially >> It’s an urgent matter, it’s not like all the time and you hear on the news that eventually in 5-10 years, things will be better The question is, why cannot we stay together when next door house, for example, people could? >> Mark and Fred face complications that most of us couldn’t imagine They made a very brave decision By law, Fred is deportable Were he to be removed from the United States, it would be very difficult for him to get back, so he would be separated from his children, and they would be separated from one of their parents They put themselves at risk really because they want to fight for all of of it They want full equality >> If you are straight you get to stay and if you are gay or lesbian you get kicked out of the country That’s a very dramatic difference in the way people are treated I can’t believe that the federal courts would let that stand >> Democrats in Congress have also stepped into the fray >> …Ninety colleagues as original co-sponsors… >> Representative Jerrold Nadler has introduced a bill called the Respect for Marriage Act that would effectively repeal DOMA >> The Republicans won’t give me the time of day I do think if we get a Democratic House and Senate, and the President is for it, and if we get some federal court decisions that keep going in the same direction, we may get a good chance at passing It’s the government’s job to protect people and to promote everyone having equal opportunities >> The President of the United States, Barack Obama >> In February 2011, the Obama Administration announced that it would not defend DOMA in court because they believed it was unconstitutional >> Section 3 of DOMA violates the Constitution, and that’s why we decided with my attorney general that we could no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA in the courts >> However, the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group, known as BLAG, intervened >> The Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group is a 5-member group of the House of Representatives, 3 Republicans and 2 Democrats The General Counsel of the House appointed a gentleman named Paul Clement to present arguments to the court in defense of DOMA >> As the Speaker of the House, I have a constitutional responsibility I raised my hand to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States and the laws of our country And if the Justice Department is not going to defend this act passed by Congress, well then we will >> And we will continue to stand up for the Defense of Marriage Act as we fight for victory in the Supreme Court this term >> Here it’s 3 people from the House, made the determination to continue to defend DOMA It’s also worth noting over a hundred members of Congress have taken the position that they cannot stand behind DOMA That it is unconstitutional This also includes individuals

who had voted for it back then >> Despite BLAG’s defense of DOMA, the law has been ruled unconstitutional in a number of lower court cases In May 2012, GLAD’s Gill case received a ruling in their favor by a federal appeals court in Boston >> Today’s landmark ruling makes clear that DOMA is a discriminatory law for which there is no justification >> The case is now poised to be heard by the Supreme Court >> The plaintiffs are suing because they are being hurt, continue to be hurt, so the faster that we can move these cases along, the better for everyone involved >> If what we’re doing now can make it so other folks don’t have to deal with the same type of frustrations then it’s worth it >> I’m very confident we will see victory in the next couple of years >> We want to get our rights We want DOMA to go away >> You know there’s a time when you say, you know, “enough is enough,” and you stand up >> We’re worth this battle We’re worth this struggle >> Mr. Speaker, not so long ago in this very country, women were denied the right to own property, and people of color, Mr. Speaker, were property Not so so very long ago, people of two races were not allowed to marry in many of the states of this country Things change, Mr. Speaker, and they are changing now We can embrace that change or we can resist that change, but thank God Almighty, as Dr. King would have said, we do not have the power to stop it >> Thank you for watching IN THE LIFE Join us on our website, itlmedia.org for continuing coverage on the Defense of Marriage Act >> You know we were talking earlier about BLAG and that it’s an acronym Somebody went to the trouble of actually looking up whether there is a word BLAG, and it turns out that there is, and it seems to be kind of an English slang word that means a violent robbery or raid, which is actually in some ways a fitting acronym >> IN THE LIFE is funded in part by and by these funders And by the annual support of IN THE LIFE members, like you