Wearing red, white and blue today

Proud today

Fair warning to readers: Today is one of those very rare days when The Legal Genealogist will take on a non-genealogical issue.

Genealogy is the first and foremost focus of this blog. It will take something truly extraordinary to shift the focus away from genealogy.

But today is one of those days.

Because today — just seconds ago, just after 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 — today, the United States Supreme Court passed judgment on two cases that concerned me deeply even though they don’t affect me or, indeed, most Americans at all.

No matter what the Supreme Court had chosen to do today with the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — which denied federal benefits, like Social Security benefits or the ability to file joint tax returns, to same-sex couples, it was clear to anyone with half a brain that there would be absolutely no impact — none at all — on the marriages of straight Americans from sea to shining sea.

The choices we straight Americans have made, good, bad or indifferent, weren’t at stake here. They wouldn’t be called into question. We’d still be married, divorced, engaged, or not, just as we were before.

And the same was obviously true of the case focusing on the California ballot proposition on same-sex marriage. No matter what the outcome was, folks who are straight weren’t going to be affected one bit.

And that, really, is the point.

It’s at the heart of why I stand, firmly and unhesitatingly, for marriage equality.

And why, today, I proudly wear the red, white and blue for the Supreme Court and its marriage equality rulings.

Today’s rulings don’t affect my rights at all. I already have the right to commit to someone else, to stand with another, to pledge to another, to support another in good times and in bad.

But they affect the rights and interests and hopes and desires of people I know — people I love. People who, before this morning, didn’t have the rights I have. Couldn’t file a joint income tax return with their committed partner. Couldn’t be the beneficiary of their committed partner’s Social Security benefits or pension benefits. Couldn’t do in so many ways what I can do without question.

These rights shouldn’t be considered gay rights. They’re human rights. Rights of people who have faces. And names. Of friends, of colleagues, and of many I love with all my heart. People like my niece and her partner, whose faces and names I decline to use online because they are what they are, two women who love each other in a country where, even after these decisions today, the law still allows them to be discriminated against for that fact alone.

I cannot and do not accept such discrimination. I cannot and do not understand it. That they find joy in a partner of the same sex is so much less important than that they find joy in a partner.

And I am so proud that, today, that we have taken the first steps towards seeing to it that such discrimination will end.

They’re only the first steps — the DOMA case was a bare 5-4 majority, and the merits of the California case weren’t even reached (the case was dismissed on technical grounds having to do with the Court’s authority to hear the particular challenge). But they are critical first steps towards equality for us all. Even those who, like me, aren’t affected by these decisions at all.

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40 Responses to Wearing red, white and blue today

  1. This is a genealogical issue in that now we can more openly recognize non-traditional families and marriages in our family trees. Think of how this will change genealogy in the future.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      There’s no doubt it will change things, and I sincerely wish it would do so quickly. For now, I still won’t name my gay family members because they still can be discriminated against in ways that matter. And we can only hope today is a first step towards ending that.

  2. Thank you for writing this Judy! As always, you have such a wonderful way of capturing the essence of an issue. I couldn’t agree more – with each and every word!!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Diana. Let’s hope these are just the first steps towards putting this issue behind us.

  3. Well said, Judy. It *is* genealogically relevant to the Sayres. Our family branches support future leaves in the form of our beautiful daughter and daughter-in-law and their children. As parents (me a little later than Rick), we all love our children and want fair treatment and equality for them. Today’s ruling goes a long way toward that guarantee for our girls. Now, if the state of Oklahoma where they live would just recognize their marriage in Washington, DC, we’d worry a lot less about legal and moral issues.

    And a big thanks for genealogy software developers who have recognized that families have all kinds of branches that need documenting, allowing me to have two fathers (one who contributed DNA and a set of ancestors, and one who has been present since my childhood and gave me a whole other set of ancestors), and allowing us to add our beautiful kids and grandkids as they should be – in a family unit.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      As you can see, it’s genealogically relevant to my family as well (and I begin to have small glimmers of hope even for Virginia, where my niece and niece-in-law sometimes hang their hats). And, I suspect, it’s genealogically relevant to most families. Whether they choose to admit it or not.

  4. Beautifully written, it brought tears to my eyes. This truly is a monumental day.

  5. Janice Haynes says:

    Thank you for this beautifully written blog today. My partner and I are very happy.

  6. Genealogy is about establishing identities and relationships, so these decisions seem like genealogical issues to me. I forget which census it was that had Willa Cather and her female partner both listed as head of household, but that enumerator was ahead of his/her time.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Good point, Madaleine. But it’s only about legal relationships — the relationships of the heart have always been there. The law is just catching up.

  7. Brad Shreve says:

    Great article. Is it ok if I use your red white and blue icon?

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks, Anne. Now let’s all get back to the things that should be ISSUES separating people — things like why my ancestors chose to live in counties with wooden courthouses that burned and somebody else’s ancestors lived in New England with all those lovely records in stone buildings…

  8. Susan says:

    Thank you so much for your blog today. My partner and I hope that one day this will help us in NC (if not we my move).
    Susan

  9. John says:

    Judy: As always, very well written and beautifully expressed!

    The anticipation was a topic of conversation this morning before the release of the decision. I could not believe that DOMA would be upheld because to do so would make this Court a modern Dred Scott court, but we do have to realize this ws a narrow 5 – 4 decision and the Prop 8 case was left to California when SCOTUS said the Prop 8 plaintiffs lacked standing and so SCOTUS had no jurisdiction. This moves the matter of full marriage equality to the individual states and perhaps the matter of equal federal benefits to this disfunctional Congress.

    These are MAJOR steps forward, but the journey and the controversy is not over any more than the abortion issue was over after Roe. :-(

    Profiles in courage and doing the right thing in evidence by 5 out of 9 today. Good on them!!

  10. Mary Ann Thurmond says:

    So many “issues” which shouldn’t even reach “issue status” in our society! I am pleased with the decision, and hope that we can now go on to other things which our elected officials seem to prefer to stuff under the carpet!

  11. Dave says:

    I hadn’t thought about it until reading this particular post, but I’m reminded of a Doonesbury comic strip from many years ago. I’ll set it up as briefly as possible, for those who aren’t familiar with the particular characters.

    Joanie and Ginny were roommates while attending law school at UC Berkeley. Both are flaming libbies, to use the vernacular of the time. Ginny happens to be black, as is her chauvinistic boyfriend, Clyde. Andy is a gay classmate of Joanie and Ginny.

    As a class project, Ginny was running for the US House of Representatives and Andy signed on to help with the campaign. This strip is a conversation between Clyde and Andy (wording may be slightly off; this is from memory).

    Clyde: Hey, man, I hear you signed on to help.

    Andy: That’s right.

    Clyde: Don’t you think you might be a bit of an embarrassment to the campaign?

    Andy: How so?

    Clyde: Well, I hear you’re gay.

    Andy: That’s right. And I hear you’re black.

    Clyde: Yeah, but that’s normal, dammit!

    Andy: Didn’t used to be!

  12. Jen de Fiebre says:

    I couldn’t agree more! Nice post Judy!

  13. Jill says:

    I stand with you on this and hope for my niece’s future the same as for yours and for the same reasons.

  14. Celia Lewis says:

    Oh my raising consciousness is a slow process sometimes! When will the government stop trying to say “This is the only right way”… Wait a minute, wasn’t the whole Puritans-settlements in the Americas all about that same thing? Choosing another way? Sigh. Equal rights. Big hugs to everyone with partners they love, regardless…

  15. Kevin E Shue says:

    Human rights are human rights are human rights. Family and genealogy is so much more than blood relationships. It is the human story. The human story of who cared for loved ones, who loved one another, who could find a place in their hearts for one another, who could forgive each others mistakes, be there in the dark challenging times, and share in the joy of successes. It is the human story that is important. This is why this decision is so important. Thank you for writing such great blog and the comments that followed.

  16. Kelvin L. Meyers says:

    Thank you Judy, I greatly appreciate your blog today. It has been a whirlwind of day especially here in Texas.

    Kelvin

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks for the kind words, Kelvin — and oh yeah… whirlwind especially in Texas… I watched that one!

  17. Mike King says:

    Thank you, Judy, for pointing out the obvious point that so many people seem to be incapable of grasping. And, as always, thank you for your support. -mk

  18. I stand with you. And I think that full civil rights, for people of all sexual orientations, makes a better and more democratic society for all of us.

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