Posted by: Catherine Lugg | July 3, 2013

Dan Savage on the death throes of DOMA and his own family

I’ve always had a soft spot for Dan Savage after he published “Skipping Towards Gomorrah,” a fall-on-the-floor funny rebuttal to the late Robert Bork’s screed “Slouching Towards Gomorrah.” In his essay on the Supreme Court’s partial rejection of DOMA, he correctly notes that this decision does not help those queer sisters and brothers living in the hater and half-baked hater states.

That said, Savage’s essay is a lovely meditation on DOMA and what the partial repeal of DOMA means for his own family.

Before I became a parent, I was only plagued by images of my death. (I could die of the plague—an Oregon man contracted the plague in 2012 trying to save a mouse from a cat.) I didn’t flash on images of what would happen after I was dead. That changed when I became a parent in 1998, two years after Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law. My country wanted to make sure that if I died, Terry wouldn’t just have to endure the pain of losing his husband, and D.J. wouldn’t just have to endure the pain of losing a parent. No, there would be bonus pain for my family. Because we weren’t married in the eyes of the federal government—because of Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act—Terry, who has been a stay-at-home parent for more than a dozen years, wouldn’t be able to collect Social Security survivor benefits, something he would be entitled to if we were an opposite-sex married couple. He would also face a crushing federal tax burden, taxes he wouldn’t have to pay if Terry were my wife.

We talked to a tax lawyer about it once. She had two words of advice for me: “Don’t die.”

For 15 years, this weighed on me. If I died, my husband would be made to suffer. If I died, my son would be made to suffer. Parents are supposed to protect their children from harm, and here was this thing—DOMA—that I couldn’t protect him from. If something happened to me, DOMA would impoverish my husband and son. Terry and D.J. would lose the house. They would lose everything.

Please go read the entire essay. It underscores just how hateful and harmful Governor Christie’s veto of marriage equity is to NJ’s queer couples.

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