"What would DOMA's repeal mean for you?"
It was March 24, 2013. My wife and I were holding a pink sign decorated with two brides and the words "Just Married." The reporter held out his microphone expectantly. I met my wife's eyes, and we froze.
DOMA -- the Defense of Marriage Act -- means a lot of things. It means that same-sex couples across the nation -- including in states that legalized same-sex marriage -- are denied federal and military benefits.
But not all of DOMA's effects are outlined in the books of taxes, policies, and citizenship.
My wife and I were married in, and live in, New York City. Our marriage is legal here. A city clerk married us at City Hall. Our marriage license is on the last page of our wedding album. My hands shook with excitement as I signed a document making my wife's last name my own.
We're married. We're committed. We're in it for the long haul. But DOMA -- and its supporters -- don't see it that way.
"Does it really matter what the government says?" It's the question I've gotten from friends mid-discussion on how important marriage equality is. "I mean don't you ever feel like it doesn't matter what other people think? You know your relationship is real. Does it need validation?" It's the question my in-laws -- staunch Republican Christians -- asked my wife when she encouraged them to vote for the legalization of marriage equality in Maryland.
It's the question to which a "no" would offer an easy solution to a complex situation.
DOMA's repeal means that my marriage is equal to every other marriage in my country. It means that my wife and I receive the same benefits as every other married couple. It means that the taxes we pay, and the laws we abide, serve and protect us as much as they do for every heterosexual married couple. It means that we cannot be denied service at a restaurant because we walked in holding hands. It means that if we want to move south of the Mason-Dixon line to retire, our marriage will still be valid.
It means our country -- the one we love and honor -- respects and loves us too.
DOMA's repeal won't change everyone's minds. No change in law can shift a dissenter's opinion by default. But my wife and I don't need validation from our peers; we don't need everyone to like us. We don't need everyone to agree with our marriage. In fact we don't need everyone to view us as equal people (though it would be nice).
What we do need -- and deserve -- is equality and protection from our federal government.
When my wife and I answered the expectant reporter at the marriage equality rally in Manhattan on the brink of DOMA's oral arguments in the Supreme Court, we offered no articulate answers. Simultaneously we mumbled about taxes and the medical care act and sick leave, but in the past few months we've had time to think.
DOMA's repeal stands to make an enormous impact on our lives, legally and fiscally. But it has the potential to mean something even greater: that in our country it is liberty and justice for all, same-sex and heterosexual couples alike.