DOMA Goes Down

It's impossible not to feel some joy as the Supreme Court strikes down a bigoted law, but we can still keep our eyes on the battle for full equality

By Sean Bugg
Published on June 27, 2013, 6:48am | Comments

It's not often you get to see a wave of joy wash across the Internet, so the first few minutes after the Supreme Court announced its ruling to strike down the worst part of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act were moments to savor.

I tend toward the dispassionate myself, at least when it comes to joy. I'm more likely to express righteous anger, like I did when Congress first passed DOMA and President Bill Clinton signed it into law. The only tears of joy I can recall shedding were those at my own wedding as I exchanged vows with Cavin in front of our families.

Otherwise, I'm generally stoic in a happy sort of way. But watching DOMA fall made my heart a little lighter. And having a friend text me, ''I'm so happy … I think today is the best day of the entire 10 years that I have been here,'' actually did bring a bit of a tear to my eye. Suddenly, he and his partner are free to share the same rights of marriage and immigration that every heterosexual couple in the country takes for granted.

It really is a momentous day.

While I'm looking forward to reading the full opinions — Who can turn down reading another stem-winder from Justice Antonin Scalia, whose bigotry becomes less thinly veiled and more unhinged every day? — but for now I'm just breathing a sigh of relief for those I care deeply about whose legal marriages will now be recognized for what they are: loving and legitimate.

For myself, well, my hopes are muted. Cavin and I live in Virginia. The wedding I mentioned above was a marriage in terms of religious ceremony, a marriage in terms of our families, but not a marriage in terms of the laws of Virginia. While the court struck down DOMA's federal definition of marriage as unconstitutional, it didn't address the section of the law that allows states to not recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

We have an obviously strange and illogical situation here in the Washington area, where the legal status of your marriage may be determined by where you happen to be driving on the Beltway. Even when Cavin and I tie the legal knot later this summer, as we plan to, in the mostly liberal bastion of Falls Church Cavin and I will remain legal strangers.

It's also obvious that, writ large, the patchwork of marriage equality is completely irrational. To drive from coast to coast, our marriages are expected to turn off and on according to our GPS location. That's the main reason that Cavin and I haven't done the full legal yet. Plus, because we've had a wedding and exchanged vows and call each other husband, I feel married already.

But we'll do it now. Things are changing rapidly. When DOMA was signed into law, I never really imagined that it would be challenged so successfully so quickly. That we find ourselves here celebrating a victory – in a battle that a lot of people ''in charge'' of the movement at the time opposed – is simply amazing and awe inspiring. When we finish the next step for marriage equality, having everyone equal under the same Constitution, I want to be a full part of that wave of joy.

For now, though, I'm happy to celebrate the victory at hand and tell my friend congratulations. It's been a long time coming.

Sean Bugg is the co-publisher of Metro Weekly. You can email him at or follow him on Twitter, @seanbugg.


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