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Conversations with My 11-Year-Old Daughter: Talking about DOMA

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Her: Daddy, what’s DOMA?

Me: DOMA stands for the Defense of Marriage Act.  How did you hear about DOMA?

Her: Some kids at zoo camp were talking about it today.

Me: Ah. What were they saying?

Her:  That DOMA was a law against gay people and it doesn’t exist anymore.

Me: That’s  true. It’s a very cool thing.

Her:  So… what actually happened?

Me: Well, yesterday, the Supreme Court in Washington D.C. put out a verdict that said DOMA was unconstitutional.

Her: Whoa. And it was already a law for a long time before that, right?

Me: Yes. For over 15 years.

Her:  And it was a law defending marriage?  From what?

(Heh.  That’s sort of the big question, Kid.  Protecting marriage from…  Aliens?  Zombie mutants?  Rampaging packs of homosexuals roaming the country and using their laser hypno-beams to turn the entire nation into an army of salivating, unstoppable gay people?)

Me: It’s a little complicated, but basically it was a law that gave each individual state the right to refuse to recognize a marriage between two gay people.

Her: Oh. (pause) Wait. What do you mean ‘refuse to recognize?’

Me:  I mean…. Ok. Let’s say Superman and Wonder Woman fall in love and get married.

Her:  Power couple.

Me: Totally. Being married is about being in love with someone and committing to that person, right?

Her: Right.

Me: But beyond that, there’s a legal side of being married vs. being single. If you’re married, you receive certain rights and stuff.

Her: Like what?

Me: Like certain healthcare privileges, and tax breaks, and stuff like that.  If Superman and Wonder Woman got married, they might be eligible to pay lower property taxes on their Fortress of Solitude, for example.  Or like, if Wonder Woman was wounded in battle —

Her: Fighting the Cheetah.

Me: –while fighting the Cheetah, and she ends up in the hospital, Superman gets spousal rights like visitation, the right to make some decisions for her if she can’t make them herself, stuff like that. There’s a really long list of legal rights that you get as a married person.

Her:  Sounds like boring stuff.

Me: Pretty boring stuff, yea. But also pretty important, if you’re a grown-up. It’s all part of the deal when your government recognizes you as a regular married person. Now let’s say The Flash and Green Arrow fall in love and want to get married.

Her:  I can see that, actually.

Me: Me too. DOMA told every individual state government that they could refuse all those marriage rights to gay couples if they wanted.

Her: That’s not fair.

Me: No, it’s not.  But what that really meant was, if a gay couple wanted to get married, it wouldn’t count. It wouldn’t be a real marriage, because relationships between gay people weren’t seen as real. Even if those two people loved each other, wanted to stay together forever, and all that. Didn’t matter. So if, say, The Flash and Green Arrow loved each other and wanted to get married, they’d only get to be legally married if they lived in a state that said their relationship counted. And if they didn’t, then they’d be out of luck.

Her:  But that makes no sense.  What if they were super in love?

Me: Didn’t matter. With DOMA, they weren’t the ones who got to decide that.

Her: THAT’S INEQUALITY.

Me: True ‘dat.

Her: That’s totally wrong.

Me: Agreed.

(Kid is silent in her seat for a moment, her puzzler busy puzzling)

Her: But, wait why were they calling it Defense of Marriage, when it was actually doing something bad to marriage?

Me: That, kiddo, is a most excellent question. I guess the people that came up with the law thought that they were doing good for marriage itself.

Her: Yea marriage for straight people only. (spoken with eye roll)  Why would someone even want a law like that?

(Oh my girl, my girl, my girl.  That’s the best question of all.)

Me: I’m not really sure.  Maybe they thought if gay people were allowed to get married, it would make marriage less special for straight people.

Her: That makes absolutely no sense.

Me: I know. There could be several reasons some people don’t want gay people to get married. Some say that the Bible defines marriage between a man and a woman only, and that’s just the way it should be.

Her: But so they took the law down.  So that’s good!  So is gay marriage legal now?

Me: Well, no. Not everywhere yet. But this was a really important step. The Supreme Court gave it a lot of thought, read the Constitution really closely, and made the decision that DOMA was unfair. And that’s why it’s a really big deal.

Her: I’m glad DOMA is gone.

Me: Me too.

Her: Did you call C.T. and celebrate?

Me: I did.

Her: Did you guys make smooooooooochy faces over the phone?

Me: None of your beeswax.

(She laughs.)

Her: So which one of you is The Flash and which one of you is Green Arrow?

Me: I’m obviously The Flash.

Her: Yea. Totally.  Because he wears a thing over his head, so no one would know you’re bald if you were The Flash.  Hey, did you know that if you were The Flash, you could totally outrun Superman in a race?

Me: I’m not sure that’s true.

Her: Of course it’s true!  The Flash got his powers from……..

Next topic.

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