Houston-area couples voice support for marriage equality

As U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on DOMA, couples speak out

By Amy Davis - Reporter/Consumer Expert

HOUSTON - In the second day of back-to-back cases involving gay marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday for and against federal benefits for same sex couples.

Wednesday's oral arguments focused on the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA, which limits the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

While same-sex marriages are not legal in Texas, there are many Houston-area couples who will be affected by the high court's decision.

"For me, it's very personal because I'm a veteran," said Noel Freeman.

Freeman served in the U.S. Air Force for 4 years. A decade later, he married his partner at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.

"I can be buried in a national cemetery, but my husband cannot be buried with me," explained Freeman.

It's just one of more than 1,100 federal rights and programs married straight couples enjoy that married same-sex couples cannot.

It's what the Supreme Court is considering now, a section of the "Defense of Marriage Act" that denies federal benefits to legally wed same-sex couples.

"There is a distinct inequality," said Freeman. "You've either got more or you've got less. It's not equal."

As the president of Houston's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus, Freeman said, on average, same-sex couples pay $1,500 to $2,000 more a year in taxes than married couples because they can't file jointly. They also can't receive their spouse's social security benefits when they die.

"I urge the Supreme Court to do the right thing," said Houston Mayor Annise Parker, when asked about the issue.

Parker, who adopted two children with her longtime female partner, said she joined 300 mayors across the country in voicing support for marriage equality.

"As someone who is personally affected by this issue, I hope the Supreme Court moves us into the future, moves us in a progressive direction."

There is a possibility that the Supreme Court will say this isn't a case that should be before them. If that happens, the lower court's ruling stands and federal rights would be extended to same-sex couples who are legally married.

The U.S. won't likely know the Supreme Court's decision until the end of June.

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