Same-Sex Couples See DOMA Ruling as Respect, Recognition for Their Families

By Trish Mehaffey, Reporter

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By Ellen Kurt

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Kate Varnum said she won’t have to lie on her federal taxes next year because she can proudly claim she’s “married” instead of “single” as she was forced to in the past now that the Defense of Marriage Act was overturned Wednesday.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Varnum, lead plaintiff in the lawsuit which made Iowa same-sex marriage legal in 2009, said Wednesday morning. “I’m more emotional now than in 2009. I’ve been bawling since it happened. This is a huge step, a watershed moment for equal rights.”

The U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling said DOMA was unconstitutional and violated equal protection rights. The ruling will now allow couples in 12 states and the District of Columbia where same-sex marriage is legal to receive federal benefits like Social Security survivor benefits and certain federal tax deductions.

Varnum said she had been online chatting with friends about the ruling and during the interview her mother, also crying over the news, was calling her from a quilt show out of state. Varnum’s wife Trish then called who was at work and wanted clarification about the Proposition 8 ruling.

He explained the court ruled supporters of the ban on gay marriage had no standing to defend the law, which leaves the original ruling intact and allows gay marriage in California.

Varnum said the DOMA ruling will have such a financial impact to her family and so many, but this is also important to her and Trish because now their son Alex, who they adopted last year, will know his parents are recognized and respected as a married couple.

Cyndy Woodhouse, 33, of North Liberty, said the decision is a milestone on the path of providing equal recognition for same-sex couples.

“It speaks volumes to where our country is going,” said the West High School teacher.

She and wife, Amy, 33, have a son, Dean, who turns two on Monday.

Woodhouse expects the reversal of DOMA will save same-sex couples money on insurance premiums, ease estate planning and help both parents have equal rights with regard to children.

Diane Finnerty of Iowa City echoed Woodhouse’s comments on the affects this decision will have on the children in same-sex marriages regarding federal benefits.

“For me, it’s not about the financial benefit, it’s about recognition,” Finnerty said. “It’s a big step for civil rights.”

Finnerty said she was worried after seeing the ruling on voting rights Tuesday but today she will celebrate. She has been with her wife Jill Jack for 23 years and they were “legally” married in Iowa four years ago.

Varnum and Finnerty also said they were thinking today of Edith Windsor, 83, of New York, who brought the DOMA case before the court.

Windsor’s marriage to Thea Spyer was legal under state law but not under federal law. When Spyer died in 2009, Windsor had to pay federal estate taxes because her marriage wasn’t recognized under federal law, so she sued the government for a $363,000 tax refund.

Varnum called Windsor her “hero.”

-Erin Jordan contributed to this article

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