I don't like the Defense of Marriage Act. It's an anti-gay measure, pure and simple. As a political matter, GLAD's lawsuit seeking to overturn one part of the statute on Equal Protection grounds may turn out to be brave, or it may turn out to be reckless. But I've got a complaint whichever way it goes.
The equality denied some of the plaintiffs in GLAD's case is the equality to be treated as married under federal income tax and Social Security law. But those laws hurt only some same-sex couples -- those in which one partner earned all or most of the income.
Equal-earning heterosexual married couples also lose out on the "marriage bonus" that our tax and Social Security laws grant couples who reflect the traditional gender norms in which the husband earns all or most of the income. Because African-American married couples are more likely than their white counterparts to be equal earners, they too get treated unfairly by a Social Security system explicitly designed to benefit the male-head-of-household family.
So this means that GLAD had to hand-pick its married same-sex couples for this lawsuit. Those with equal earners were not worse off with respect to Social Security benefits than their heterosexually married counterparts. And those with equal earners were probably better off for income tax purposes that they were treated as single under federal law. Those couples would have been lousy plaintiffs.
There has been advocacy on behalf of reforming Social Security laws to deal more justly with American families. I mean how fair is it exactly that a woman who raises two children on her own, working full time, is likely to wind up with less in Social Security benefits than a stay-at-home wife with a wealthy husband? or that equal-earner couples actually subsidize the benefits that go to couples that adhere to gendered norms? Reform efforts haven't gotten very far, and the reason is that knocking families with stay-at-home moms off of their privileged perch is fraught with political peril -- maybe more political peril that trying to repeal DOMA.
But I'm not happy spending the political capital of the gay rights movement to replicate within our community the inequalities that plague so many heterosexual couples.