07/10/2013 02:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

After the DOMA Decision, We Face an Impossible Choice

On the morning that the DOMA decision was announced, I was sitting alone in my home office, barely breathing, as I watched the SCOTUSblog live feed and IM'ed with my partner, who was (supposed to be) working while our boys were in preschool.

Our elderly dachshunds were asleep on their bed. One of them snored. "Tap-tap-tap," went the SCOTUSblog updates. The fan whirred. Outside the windows of our 1969 brick ranch in suburban Winston-Salem, bees buzzed on the perennials we'd planted just a few weeks ago.


It's DOMA.


5-4 per Kennedy.


Roberts dissents. Scalia dissents.

My simultaneous IM conversation with my partner while SCOTUSblog was tap-tap-tapping had more exclamation points in five minutes than we'd used all year.

The phone rang. It was my mom. I cried. She cried.

I hung up and cued up Queen's "We Are the Champions" and danced around the house shouting along. "We'll keep on fighting till the end!" The dogs looked up, confused. One of them tentatively wagged her tail as I pirouetted by.

My Facebook feed became a thing of love and beauty. I was laughing. I was sobbing. I was "liking" all the things! The dogs went back to sleep.

When my partner brought our kids home, our 4-year-old told me he was happy we could get married again, because that meant cake. I squeezed him.

When I went out to run some errands, I got chills every time NPR replayed the cheers that went up outside the Supreme Court when the ruling came down.

What a day, y'all. What a day.


But as more days passed, my elation turned to consternation.

My partner and I don't have a legal marriage certificate because we lived and were married in Atlanta in 2007 and then moved to North Carolina two years ago for my partner's job. Before the DOMA ruling, a marriage certificate from a state that would give us one wouldn't benefit us while we resided in a state that banned same-sex marriage.

It's still unclear whether we specifically will be able to access any new rights or benefits, though we're planning to go get a marriage license soon anyway. Some same-sex couples experienced immediate reversals of fortunes after the DOMA decision, like those with partners from other countries, and I'm thrilled for them.

But the more I scanned through news stories looking for definitive answers about our rights right now, the angrier I became. Everywhere I looked, I saw conservative commentators declaring that same-sex marriage is a states' rights issue and that same-sex couples should just move to states that allow it and be happy with that.

Just move. Because it's easy, in this economy, if you live in North Carolina or Georgia -- or any of the other 37 states that ban or don't allow same-sex marriage -- to just quit your stable job(s) and just find a new one in one of the 13 states that do. Everyone just has a few thousand dollars lying around to pay for an interstate move. And we all know that if you own a house, you can just sell it, right?

In a word: No.

Even if all of the above stars aligned, we live 90 minutes from my mother and my aunt Les, both of whom are dearly loved by our boys. The closest state that would recognize my marriage to my partner is Maryland, which would put us five hours away by car. Five hours would mean many fewer visits. No longer could Granna just pop over for our son's preschool concert, nor could we pile everyone in the car for a spontaneous day trip to her house.

So this is the choice we face: Do we stay here and raise our children around extended family in a state that explicitly denies our little family the rights and protections of marriage -- and, by extension, promotes a culture of intolerance of LGBT people -- or do we strive to leave extended family, friends, jobs, neighbors, and a whole lot of money behind to raise them in a state that values and protects us just like any other family, and likely has a more accepting culture to match? Which one is better for our kids?

This dichotomy doesn't just punish me and my partner and my kids; if we do choose to move, it punishes my mom and my aunt and many other family members of same-sex couples who make the same choice. Is it irony that family-values conservatives would rather split up a grandmother and grandchildren than protect the children's nuclear family the way straight-parented families are protected? Is it ignorance? Or something worse?

(My partner's employer would also be unhappy to see us go. So much for conservatives protecting business interests.)

I'm not exaggerating when I say that on June 26, I suddenly did feel more free. I felt like my federal government stopped devaluing my marriage and began treating me like any other citizen. This was monumental, folks, but the U.S. is still not the "land of the free" for me. My "land of the free" is confined to a measly 13 states, none of which feels like home to me.

We won a major battle last month. But we're not done. Good thing we'll keep on fighting until the end.

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