“It’s been an uphill journey, working for the federal government and feeling like I’m a second-class citizen because of who I love . . .” she said. “I feel like I stepped out of a very gloomy past . . . I’ve been crying and singing . . . freedom is coming.”
Yet she knows the DOMA decision and another allowing same-sex marriage to stand in California “are significant steps but don’t mean full equality.”
Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about the federal workplace that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.
For all of the celebration outside the Supreme Court, marriage inequality is the rule in most of America. And that leads to some uncertainty on how the court’s decision will be implemented.
“Virtually immediately, legally married gay couples that live in marriage-equality states will have access to the same federal rights and benefits of marriage afforded to straight couples,” said Fred Sainz, a vice president of the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
But in those states that discriminate against same-sex marriage, “the landscape is less clear,” he said. “Why? Because federal agencies have different standards to recognize a marriage, primarily centered on where the couple married or resides. To make the matter more complex, some of the definitions are set by regulation while some are set by statute.”
That means it is important for the Obama administration to interpret the decision clearly, quickly and inclusively so that couples who were legally married in one state are not denied benefits because they live in a state that does not recognize their union.
“I’ve directed the attorney general to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly,” President Obama said. He should have added “broadly” to that sentence.
Without defining how the DOMA decision will be implemented, Elaine Kaplan, the acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, said the agency’s current practice is to determine whether employees are legally married when spousal benefits are considered without the state of residence being a factor. While administration officials “recognize that our married gay and lesbian employees have already waited too long for this day, we ask for their continued patience as we take the steps necessary to review the Supreme Court’s decision and implement it,” she said. “As soon as we have updates to share, they will be posted on our Web site.”
Make it quick.
Previous columns by Joe Davidson are available at wapo.st/JoeDavidson.