‘In The Life’ series examines how DOMA affects five married couples
August 02, 2012
Yesterday, In the Life released a new 30-minute special called Married But Not Equal. The episode features five same-sex married couples and how they are directly impacted by the so called Defense of Marriage Act, the law that prohibits federal recognition of legal same-sex marriages and denies same-sex couples over 1,138 derivative marriage protections. The special is available in full at PBS' website.
In the video, Geraldine and Suzanne Artis, a married lesbian couple raising three boys in Connecticut, encounter problems each year when filing taxes. Though Connecticut recognizes their marriage, for federal tax purposes, DOMA only recognizes marriages between a man and a woman, which forces the couple to file separately and determine which of the two will claim their children as dependents each year.
According to Mary Bonauto, the Civil Rights Project Director at Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the couple would be paying significantly less in federal taxes if they were able to file jointly.
"Geraldine and Susan Artis are a perfect example of a very hardworking couple they make this enormous commitment to their sons," Bonauto said. "But because of DOMA, they are paying close to $1,500 a year in federal income taxes."
In a fight to keep the integrity of their family protected, the Artis' joined GLAD as plaintiffs in a case known as Pedersen v. Office of Personnel Management.
Ann Meitzen and Joanne Pedersen, who have been a couple for nearly 14 years, are also plaintiffs in the Pedersen lawsuit. The couple has encountered additional problems involving retirement and health benefits. Pedersen, a former federal employee who worked in the Office of Naval Intelligence for almost 30 years, retired in August of 2008 but is unable to name Mietzen as her beneficiary.
Meitzen, who is also retired, developed hypersensitivity pneumonitis and chronic bronchitis after being exposed to mold and fungus spores at her job and experiences recurring pneumonia symptoms every 6 weeks. Meitzen works part time to cover medical expenses in addition to using 58 percent of her $1,425-a-month social security check to pay for health insurance. If Pederesen were allowed to name Meitzen as a beneficiary, the couple would save approximately 400 dollars a month.
"It's not just about the money," Meitzen said. "It's about being recognized as a full partner - a full part of Joann's life and this in part of ways makes me feel less than."
In addition to these couples, In the Life includes interviews with two additional same-sex couples and a widower who discusses how they are directly impacted by DOMA. These include Dean Hara, a plaintiff in DOMA case Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and the widower of the first openly gay Congressman, Gerry Studds (D-Mass.); Tracy Cooper-Harris and Maggie, a military family; and Mark Himes and Fred Deloizy, a binational couple and the fathers of four children.
Collectively, the couples discuss some of DOMA's impacts on estate, tax, federal pension, life insurance, social security, military, disability, health, housing, burial, adoption, travel, immigration, and economic related issues.
Though DOMA has been found unconstitutional by several lower courts and is no longer defended by the Obama administration, DOMA has yet to be repealed.
The Supreme Court currently faces a handful of requests to take on DOMA-related cases that could in turn repeal the legislation. Justices of the court will return from their summer recess on September 24 and will then have until October to decide if they will hear such cases.
For former servicewoman Cooper-Harris, the push for the repeal of DOMA is worth the fight. "If what we're doing could make it so that other folks don't have to deal with the same type of frustrations," she said, "Then it's worth it."