Five years ago, Hannah and Ronni Pahl were the first lesbian couple to marry in Santa Clara County, witnessed by their then-12-year-old son Isaiah Smith.
“When we got married, we felt like we were part of the masses,” said Ronni Pahl. “Then the marriages just stopped, and there were 18,000 of us who were put into a separate bubble. So we felt separate from our own community.”
The Pahls say that feeling drives them to keep donating and showing up at rallies.
And, though the Prop 8 decision allows same-sex couples to marry in California, they won’t stop fighting until gay marriage is legal across the country.
“I have my aunt, who’s in a 30-year relationship in Michigan, and they have no rights at all,” said Ronni Pahl. “So I’m a champion for them. I’m a champion for our friends Chantel and Pam in New Jersey, who just had a baby, and they have no health benefits. They’re not recognized.”
They know the price of that too. Hannah and Ronni Pahl estimate, while the Defense of Marriage Act was in effect, they paid thousands of dollars more in taxes and health care costs every year than couples whose marriages were recognized.
“It was essentially a penalty,” said Hannah Pahl. “We were paying through the nose, honestly, in taxes, and you can switch between married and then single…and the difference was astronomical, in the thousands. It’s a huge difference.”
Meanwhile, that little boy who signed his moms’ marriage license is now a young man, who still has a hard time understanding why his parents’ marriage ever mattered to anyone other than them.
“Even now, it’s like, what’s the point? You’re denying people their rights for what reason,” said Isaiah Smith.
The legal and financial status of hundreds of thousands of gay Americans could dramatically change in light of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down DOMA.
Here's a breakdown of a few federal benefits same-sex couples could now receive:
- Survivors’ benefits: Spouses will now be eligible for Social Security benefits after the death of a partner, among other forms of assistance.
- IRS benefits: Spouses can now claim perks from estate tax exemptions to head of household deductions. They can file tax returns jointly.
- Immigration benefits: Gay citizens can lobby for Green Cards and visas for non-American partners.