Same-sex couples still wary despite federal marriage rights bill

Mary and Sharon Bishop-Baldwin were jubilant after winning a decade-long fight for the right to marry in Oklahoma.

But eight years after they were married, the day they won their lawsuit against the state’s ban on gay marriage, and seven years after the US Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry, they no longer They take their union for granted. .

While they’re happy that Congress is moving quickly to ensure national recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages, they, like many in LGBTQ communities, are frustrated that it’s necessary even after so many years and don’t they are sure if it is enough.

“Just the fact that we’re having these conversations is really disheartening to me,” especially given a dramatic shift in public opinion over the past decade, with polls showing that 70 percent of American adults are now in favor of the right. to same-sex marriage, Sharon Bishop said. -Baldwin, 54.

But when the higher court struck down Roe v. Wade, who had guaranteed right to abortion, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested in a concurring opinion that the decision upholding gay marriage should also be reconsidered. That prompted Democrats to move quickly to protect same-sex marriage while the party still holds a majority in both houses of Congress.

LISTEN: Supreme Court hears arguments over website designer refusing services for same-sex couple

The Senate approved the Respect Marriage Act last week with the support of 12 Republicans; it is expected to easily win House approval before being signed by President Joe Biden.

At first, Sharon Bishop-Baldwin said, she thought the act was “lip service.” But she changed her mind because it would at least provide her with some protection.

See also  The 2022 Legislative Landscape for LGBTQI+ Rights

“It’s ridiculous to think that someone in this country who was legally married in one place could suddenly be single in another,” Bishop-Baldwin said.

When the couple filed their lawsuit in Oklahoma in 2004, 76 percent of the state’s voters had just approved a constitutional ban on gay marriage. Ten years later, the US Supreme Court upheld a federal appeals court ruling declaring the state ban unconstitutional. A year later, the high court decided in another case that all states must issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

“When we won, one of our lawyers said, ‘This is a game, a set, a match, a marriage’ … and that’s what we thought: we’re done,” said Bishop-Baldwin, who runs a small newspaper and he met his wife in 1995 when they were both editors at Tulsa World.

The legislation would not codify or enshrine in law the Supreme Court decision requiring states to issue same-sex marriage licenses. But if that decision were overturned and states revived the bans, they would still have to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in other states.

“I can’t imagine that happening in the Supreme Court … but we have to be prepared,” said Mary Bishop-Baldwin, 61, who notes that the Oklahoma ban is still on the books.

The possibility has created “a state of extreme anxiety and stress” among same-sex couples, said Jenny Pizer, legal director of Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ civil rights group.

READ MORE: The Q Club patron who helped apprehend the shooter said he “wanted to save the family I found”

That’s especially true for those with children, he said. Currently, both spouses are considered legal parents, which is especially important if one of them dies or gets divorced. “So this bill really matters,” Pizer said.

See also  HRC rejects Disney's LGBTQ donation until 'meaningful action' is taken

Some also fear that the higher court or a future Congress could undo the federal legislation.

“Every time the House and Senate overrule, you wonder what could happen this time,” said Dawn Betts-Green, 43, who lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with his wife, Anna Green, whom he married in Florida. in 2016. “Honestly, it’s in the hands of whoever we choose, and that’s scary.”

A scenario in which constitutional protections are struck down by the Supreme Court and the Respect for Marriage Act is struck down by court or Congress might be a long shot, but “it is certainly possible that there are a number of events that really make us back. to that earlier time when it was incredibly difficult for families,” Pizer said.

“The idea of ​​going back to those days, frankly, is terrifying,” he said.

Betts-Green and his wife scrambled to fill out paperwork, like wills and powers of attorney, after Roe v. Wade was overruled, getting “all our legal ducks in a row (because) they’re clearly coming for us,” she said, recalling a time when his wife was hospitalized in Florida, before they were married, and a nurse told Betts- Green would not be allowed to make medical decisions.

Marriage also provides many other legal protections, including the ability to claim Social Security survivor benefits and obtain health insurance through a spouse’s plan, and tax benefits, such as the ability to leave assets to a spouse.

The Respect for Marriage Act makes Betts-Green feel a little safer, she said, though “I find it absolutely ridiculous that we have to go through this kind of thing in 2022, not just for queer people, but for interracial people as well.” . marriages It’s not 1941, but it certainly feels like we’ve stepped back in time.”

See also  How to Find an LGBTQ Supportive Financial Advisor

The issue of same-sex marriage is also overshadowing other concerns, including anti-LGBTQ legislation and harassment and attacks on LGBTQ people, notably the recent shooting at a colorado night club that killed five people, Betts-Green said.

“I am constantly reminded that this is the least of our problems in many ways,” he said.

Robbin Reed, a Minneapolis paralegal, a white woman who is married to a black transgender man, supports the law but worries it could mean more danger to people who might be angered by its protections.

“The law won’t really change anything in my life … because there’s still so much to worry about,” said Reed, who has an 8-month-old son and performs with her husband at queer nightclubs. “This is a ridiculous situation to be in.”

The Bishop-Baldwins said they doubt the Supreme Court will strike out same-sex marriage rights, but are relieved there will be some protections just in case. Still, federal legislation shouldn’t even be required, they say.

“Is the Respect for Marriage Law good enough? Of course not. Good enough should be” constitutional protection, Sharon Bishop-Baldwin said.

Betts-Green said nothing would surprise her now: “You can never really be comfortable.”