Ever since Kim Beswick and Sarah Seidl exchanged vows in 2004 in San Francisco, they say the road to maintaining a happy, healthy family unit has been a long and arduous journey. Shortly after their nuptials, their license to wed was invalidated by California’s Proposition 8, which annulled their previously legal right to marry.
“The marriage was already there, but the recognition was invalid,” Beswick told Boise Weekly.
But June 26 was a life-changer.
The couple, who have been residents of Boise for the past 20 years, witnessed the landmark ruling made by the U.S. Supreme Court that rejected the definition of a federally valid marriage as stated in Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. It was a ruling that brought up an emotion that Beswick could only describe as “elation.”
“It was phenomenal news," said Beswick. "Today is a huge day in terms of marriage equality, rights and how it impacts us as a family. There’s something about the U.S. government saying [DOMA] is discrimination and unconstitutional. Those are big words are really meaningful in our history of civil rights, and to hear that was a really heartfelt experience and to see it recognized on that level is truly emotional and amazing. The financial implications for us as a family are huge. What you would consider normal family decisions. Federal marriage benefits allows us to file our taxes together, allows us to inherit each other’s social security as we get older. Everything that we saved together, or created as a family—our house, our 401k—is protected.”
Monica Hopkins of the ACLU of Idaho told Boise Weekly that the DOMA ruling doesn't change Idaho's marriage laws, but has significant impact to federal employees and families impacted by federal programs.
"(The DOMA ruling) simply says if a same-sex couple is married, the government will respect that marriage for federal purposes,” Hopkins clarified. “Striking down Section 3 of DOMA, which was today’s decision, reset the definition of marriage for the purpose of federal programs. Same-sex couples who are legally married going forward would be treated as married by the federal government and have access to federal programs such as access to health care and social security benefits.”
However, since the union of same-sex couples is still illegal in Idaho, Hopkins told BW that enacting benefits to same-sex residents of the Gem State will take a little more time.
“Idaho law hasn’t changed at all. We still have a constitutional amendment that bans same sex marriage,” she said, “But this speaks to the patchwork quilt we have across the country in states where same-sex unions are legal and where they are not.”
Currently, only 13 states allow the marriage of same-sex couples. Despite the red tape that remains, Beswick remains optimistic.
“The practical next step is to get our marriage license reissued and have that actually mean something,” said the mother of two. “We’re living our lives together already, so we just go on and participate in the progress that Idaho is ready for, and try to create change here for the LGBT community. Idaho moves more slowly than other states, but it is moving. We want to help people try to understand why this is important for the community.”
Hopkins said cautious optimism has the ACLU of Idaho working overtime.
“As the ACLU is working towards marriage equality in all 50 states, we want to ensure that it’s done in a way that’s not hasty, but thought out,” said Hopkins. “Our work here is ensuring non-discriminatory protections.”