Since getting engaged to her partner three years ago, Nicola Simmersbach has lost her grandmother and uncle. Her partner Diana’s father also died. The Sacramento couple isn’t sure when, if, and how they’ll be able to marry one another, and today’s news that the U.S. Supreme Court will take up the issue of same-sex marriage hasn’t done much to quell those frustrations.
"It’s not about the dress or the ring or the cake, it’s about my family and friends coming together and being able to participate in this very, very important social custom of being married," the marriage family therapist said. "To some degree, that’s something that everybody’s elders wants to see – they want to see their kids grow up, and mature, and find somebody and settle down. When these family members of ours die, this is all in limbo."
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether same-sex couples can marry in California and whether the federal government can deny benefits to wedded gay couples, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The court took up the issue Friday, granting hearings to backers of Proposition 8 – which amended the California Constitution to overturn a ruling that legalized same-sex marriage – and the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, which withholds federal recognition and spousal benefits to thousands of same-sex couples who married under their state’s laws.
Rulings from the cases – to be argued in early 2013 – must be issued by the end of June. By taking up the cases the court could affirm or deny the constitutional right to same-sex marriage, and decide if same-sex couples have a right to marriage benefits.
For Ken Pierce, Equality Action Now public relations director, the news comes as another disappointment in the fight for equal rights, but he remains optimistic that love will prevail (with a little help from lawyers).
"I’m disappointed that we’re not having December weddings on the west steps of the Capitol with a nice tree in the background," he said. "But you know what? It’s really beautiful in June, all the roses are out, so we’re still going to have weddings, but it will be summer weddings."
And he’s hoping the Supreme Court takes it up as a constitutional issue. "We have probably the best lawyers that anyone can find anywhere to plead our case," Pierce said. "They’ve won time and time and time again at the state level – they will take it to the Supreme Court and they will also win there."
The back and forth mentality of thinking marriage is a reality, then having those hopes dashed, impacts more than the two people wanting to spend the rest of their lives together. After Proposition 8 passed, Simmersbach’s phone didn’t stop ringing for about a month, she said. The bonds that connect one human to another were under assault, as couples became fearful that their marriage license would be revoked. In one case, a little girl though that the passage of Prop. 8 meant her mothers would be separated and she wouldn’t be able to live with them, Simmersbach said.
"Finding and being able to connect with somebody to the point you want to get married is a very healthy event, and having that publicly taken away from you is pretty devastating," she said. "Marriage is one of the most acknowledged and universally understood relationships.
"When people are prohibited from such a basic human right, that creates a lot of chaos and confusion."
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