Senate Hearing on the Respect for Marriage Act

This morning, I had the privilege of attending the first-ever
Congressional hearing on the so-called “Defense of Marriage
Act,” convened by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, which is
currently considering the Respect for Marriage Act (S 598), a bill
that would repeal DOMA. The hearing was titled “Assessing the
Impact of DOMA on American Families,” and that is exactly what
the hearing was about: how DOMA harms our families. As an intern at
Family Equality, I listened carefully and took copious notes to
document this historic day. As one of the 18,000 couples married in
California in 2008, with my wife sitting beside me this morning,
the testimony reached me on a personal level as well. My wife and I
have already experienced the disruption and disadvantage that DOMA
causes in the lives of same-sex couples. Although I’m married in
California, I cannot list my wife as part of my family on the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid, causing our total aid
eligibility to be much lower than we need to actually support our
family.  More importantly, the hearing testimony cemented my fear
that, if DOMA is not repealed, the worst is yet to come as my wife
and I plan our future together.

There were many parts of the testimony this morning that were
painful to hear, and not just the parts one would expect. Sen.
Leahy described the stories of families harmed by DOMA as
“powerful.” I think one of the sources of that power is their
tragedy. People unaffected by DOMA will not realize the harm that
this discriminatory law causes their neighbors unless they hear how
LGBT families have had to sacrifice jobs to care for each other,
sell family homes, and carry multiple documents to prove that they
are families. I knew that it would be hard to hear anti-LGBT
witnesses speak of supposed “studies” that support their
discriminatory positions, especially when I know that social
science data overwhelmingly shows that children of same-sex parents
have the same outcomes as children of opposite-sex parents. Because
I had read about many of the stories I heard today while helping to
prepare Family Equality’s testimony for the hearing, I did not
expect the emotional reaction I felt this morning. But hearing
witnesses tell the stories of their families aloud to everyone was
different—it was personal.  I know that others must have felt
this connection to the stories of our families; I hope that it
reached some who have not felt it before.