Just over a month after the US Supreme Court handed down its historic decision in U.S. v. Windsor, its effects have been felt far and wide. While most people have been celebrating the civil rights victory striking down the key component of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), Hunter Smiley is not happy with the Supreme Court’s decision. He fears he will be obliged to prematurely marry his girlfriend.
“You know, Brad Pitt goes on TV and is like, ‘I’m not getting married until it’s legal for everyone to get married’, and I’m like, ‘Whoa, what a great idea,” said Smiley, a barista from Austin. “I mean, my girlfriend had been on my case about getting married and I just wasn’t ready for it, you know, why buy the cow?”
Smiley says he tried all the regular excuses to put off getting engaged, such as he needed time to save up for a ring, and that he first had to learn Italian to write the most romantic wedding vows. Then he saw the Brad Pitt interview. “I knew my girlfriend couldn’t say no to this,” said Smiley. “Some of our best friends are gay.”
In striking down DOMA — which allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages — the Supreme Court ruled that the law imposed a disadvantage on same-sex couples, which was in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s equal protection guarantee. For Smiley, this means his time might be up. He could face marriage to his girlfriend within a few years, if the trend for states to legalize gay marriage continues.
Although an English Lit major from Vassar College, Smiley read up on constitutional law during breaks at the coffee shop where he works. He wanted to better understand his odds of having to get married. He feels he now has a fairly strong grasp on the Constitution, which led him to calculate the risk of him having to get married as very low. The power of defining and recognizing marriage is a role that is supposed to be left to states, he said, and DOMA supported this.
When the Supreme Court’s decided in June to strike down DOMA, Smiley was stunned. “I just couldn’t understand it,” he said. “The issue seemed cut and dry. You know, don’t tell my parents or friends this, but [dissenting Justice Antonin] Scalia was right. There was no controversy here and the case should have been dismissed.”
“As soon as news of the decision broke,” Smiley added, “my girlfriend starts sending me cutouts of wedding gown photos. Great. Thanks for nothing, Supreme Court.”
For now, Smiley is still not engaged, as he was able to point out to his girlfriend that Windsor merely struck down DOMA, which defined marriage for federal purposes. State law still governs the definition of marriage within each state, and to date only 13 states have recognized same-sex marriage.
Although he lives in Texas, a solidly conservative state, Smiley understands that it’s a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’ the laws will be changed there. Still, he is hoping that state legislators will hold out as long as they can.
“I know it’s inevitable, but I just need a little more time before I’m ready,” said Smiley. “I mean, Gaia bless Texas, you know what I mean.”