One of the weddings I'm planning was recently postponed and I'm absolutely livid about it.
Not at my client (an amazing same-sex couple) -- certainly not at them.
I'm pissed at former President Bill Clinton and Congress who passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996. See, this law prevents legally married same-sex couples from receiving any federal benefits and allows states to not recognize the legal same-sex marriages of their own residents. DOMA is the reason that this map is a patchwork of colors. Those "white" states (most of them) don't provide same-sex couples with any legal rights.
And yes, DOMA is the reason my clients' wedding was postponed. See, my clients are a binational couple. One of the brides is a resident of the UK, living in New York on a work visa. Her visa is up and despite her numerous efforts, she cannot get it renewed. She has to move out of the U.S. and her fiancée will likely follow suit. If they were a straight couple, they could march right down to City Hall, get married, and the foreign partner would be able to stay and eventually get a green card. It doesn't work that way with gay couples. DOMA prevents this.
You may know that a case challenging the federal portion of DOMA is about to be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court. By the time the court makes its ruling (supposedly in June) and the repercussions get worked out, my clients will be living out of the country. Even if DOMA is overturned, their attorneys have given no concrete timetable for when same-sex binational couples are eligible for these rights.
The DOMA Project is a pro bono organization working to fight these forced separations. Click here to read some of the stories of these couples torn apart by DOMA. According to the DOMA Project: DOMA causes married binational couples to face the real threat of being torn apart because of expiring visas or deportation. Countless binational couples are forced into exile to live in other countries where their relationships are recognized under the law.
As a wedding planner with an LGBT specialty, one of the questions I get most often is "what's the difference between a straight and a gay wedding?" THIS story is just one of the differences. These legal injustices (and their repercussions) are significant and they absolutely play a role in our planning. And yes, I'm a wedding planner, but I'm an advocate. Our stories are the stories which change the world.
Follow Bernadette Coveney Smith on Twitter: www.twitter.com/gaywedding