I Live In A State Where Overturning DOMA Changes Nothing

Source: HRC FB page
Source: HRC FB page

I celebrated the end of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on Twitter and Facebook. I was happy to hear that the marriage equality was restored in California. I know it’s a watershed moment, but the Supreme Court moved marriage back to the states, and the state I live in often forgets there is a separation of church and state as the legal reasons don’t exist.

I live in Virginia and stood by the polling place in 2006 handing out information on why a constitutional amendment “that defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman and bans recognition of any legal status ‘approximat[ing] the design, qualities, significance, or effects of marriage'” should not pass, and I had to celebrate the nearly one million people, who voted against it, even as it passed. (source) To overturn a constitutional amendment in Virginia takes two different election cycles in the House of Delegates plus a statewide referendum. Maybe in twenty-five years.

Whenever marriage comes up in our home, my son, in all his practical thinking, says: Well, I can only get married here if I marry a girl and you can only get married here if you want to marry a boy.

My daughter replies: Ew! I don’t like boys.

I reply: We could always move so you could get married in one of twelve [now thirteen] states or even to Washington D.C..

We could move sounds akin to we could dye your hair or skin or Teach you to talk different. When it comes to something as sacred as marriage, moving shouldn’t be the answer. However, for my state and several others, I fear it will be desegregation all over again and will take an act of Congress or a Supreme Court ruling to grant marriage equality to Virginians. And, of course, all those couples who finally have marriage equality where they live today, may one day find themselves in a Virginia due to changes in employment or family or military post and be “suddenly rendered legal strangers in Indiana or Michigan, their property rights are potentially altered, spouses disinherited, children put at risk, and financial, medical, and personal plans thrown into turmoil.” (source)

Of course, I’m overjoyed to live in a country with a federal government supporting gay marriage, and I know this already positively affects so many families. But I feel like my state line became a mote. (source) I love Virginia. I love all the things I can do and my friends and how happy my children are. I love that I can point out where I met Scott and where we first lived together. But Virginia elects people who make ignorant choices, and for a state, which loves independence, we spend so much time in citizens’ bedrooms that we force the federal government to take charge.

And jealously, I wonder how much longer I will have to explain that love is love to my children while others just live it.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

11 thoughts to “I Live In A State Where Overturning DOMA Changes Nothing”

  1. I couldn’t agree more. I cheered the striking down of DOMA (even as I fear what happened to the Voting Rights Act). I read most of Justice Kennedy’s opinion, and I’m hopeful that somewhere there are already challenges to state laws based on it. It mentions that the reason to overturn DOMA was partially based on equal protection under the law, something that many states forbid now with their discrimination.

    I hope that my son (and future daughter) grow up in a state that recognizes the equality of everyone who lives here, instead of making a second class of citizen just to pander to the lowest common denominator of the extreme religious right that is fighting to take over our state.

  2. I was another one of those almost one million people, but I didn’t volunteer- thank you for giving your time. I am so offended that our state leaders- who supposedly like small government- feel the need to spend time making laws that limit personal freedoms. I am ashamed that someone can make this joke about my state’s slogan: “Virginia is for people who have heteronormative unprotected intercourse in order to concieve a child the way the Lord intended it” (

    1. I am ashamed, too. I feel torn living here sometimes. Not that I think the Northeast or other areas do everything right because they don’t, but I worry some states will just get left behind.

  3. I get frustrated that this is still an issue and that religion is being used to determine law. I keep trying to remind myself that as baby steps as this all seems to be, it’s only been 44 years since Stonewall. Thats SOME progress. And if you look at our history, there’s a bad habit of SLOW progress when it comes to acts of discrimination.

    1. It’s amazing progress in the grand scheme of things, but when I see where we are with Roe v Wade, I worry we’ll be forever fighting this battle in some states, too. Maybe I’m just weary.
      And yes, the separation of church and state should not be such a difficult concept.

  4. A couple of points.
    The Court striking down DOMA now compels States to recognize marriages from other States without regard to sexual orientation. If Mary and Jane get married in New York, they are still married when they move to Virginia.

    Prop 8 is a little more tricky. The Court did not haer arguments citing “Lack of Stand”. This does not make gay marriage legal in California but throws it back to the Ninth District court to untangle.

    Although I’m personally am happy with the Court’s decisions, I am wary of which group will come forward next with the “If two people Love each other?” argument. There is now precedence.

    1. That’s not true for DOMA. Before the repeal of DOMA, these marriages would only get state recognition and benefits but denied federal benefits. Now, in states that approve gay marriage and civil unions, they get both state and federal benefits. But states like Virginia are not forced to give any state recognition to gay marriage at all although the 1000+ federal benefits should follow them from state-to-state. State benefits will not — that includes state recognition of the marriage. Now will there be legal fights over this? For sure but since Virginia does not give equal protection to state employees for sexual orientation, I’m not sure how those will go here.

  5. I am closely watching what Michigan legislatures and judges are doing right now too. They have just reversed a ban on same-sex benefits, so that is a step in the right direction. I feel like with the end of DOMA, it is economically a bad choice for states not to follow suit and allow same-sex marriage.

    1. Someone made this argument about economics with all our crazy fights with transvaginal ultrasounds. It is true that a state’s reputation makes it hard for a company to want to move there and convince its workforce to come with it.

    1. I think my worry is that Virginia doesn’t even have an anti-discrimination clause for state employees for sexual orientation anymore thanks to our Republican governor and AG. But I have hope we will not have a Republican governor for much longer so I’m torn and a little battle weary with all these other issues that keep coming up and being refought. Thanks for the reminder and hope.

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