Even in states with full marriage equality, LGBT people are denied equal justice under the law by the so called “Defense of Marriage Act.” Many in our MLP family have recently been directly impacted by this unjust law. As followers of Christ, who challenged laws that made some people permanent outsiders, let us renew our commitment to the repeal of DOMA.
At the time of John Ferris’s death in 2008, he and Herb Burtis had been in a committed relationship for 60 years. Their mutual love of music brought John and Herb together as college students in 1948, and in 2004, after what Herb calls their “55-year engagement,” they were legally married in their home state of Massachusetts. By then, John was physically disabled by Parkinson’s disease, but Herb cared for him and reconfigured their home to keep John there as much as possible as he deteriorated.
Herb’s grief at losing his spouse and soul mate of 60 years was compounded by the indignity heaped on him by the federal (DOMA), the law that prevents the federal government from recognizing the marriages of same-sex couples. Because of DOMA, Herb’s marriage to John was not a marriage for federal law purposes, even though the federal government recognizes all other state determinations of marital status for purposes of federal benefits and burdens. Thus, Herb’s application for Social Security survivor benefits was flatly denied. Were it not for DOMA, Herb would have been entitled to John’s monthly Social Security benefit, which was higher than his own. The extra $700.00 a month the 83-year-old widower would have received is roughly equivalent to the monthly cost of the medications he must take to maintain his own health.
To Herb, DOMA meant that the federal government respected neither his marriage nor his loving 60-year commitment to John.
Read the full story in Forbes.