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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

With DOMA In SCOTUS, Baby Steps Are Being Taken

Stephanie Bonvissuto in her office at the Queer Student Center

Something of note happened in our nation’s capital recently.

No, the budget wasn’t balanced, nor was any progress made on exactly what “balanced” would even mean. Peace was not to be had yet in the Middle East (let alone between opposites sides of that fabled aisle in our Congress). Gun control was not, in fact, controlled; Pro-Choice advocates still clashed with anti-abortionists; our cherished freedom-of-speech was still being appropriated by hate-groups; immigrants are still seeking effective paths to citizenship and fighting not to be labeled as “illegals” (as if any human life could be).   

Yet over in the Supreme Court of the United State (SCOTUS), small progressive steps were being tentatively taken — or at least contemplated. Maybe. On March 26th and 27th, arguments arose concerning two separate yet interrelated major cases regarding marriage equality.

The first dealt with the constitutional reach of the Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA); the second with two couples who filed motions against California’s Proposition 8, which effectively barred same-sex couples from being legally recognized as married couples in the eyes of the federal government and state and local jurisdictions. Final decisions are not expected for another 8-12 weeks — potentially in time for Pride month.

The Supreme Court’s decision cannot be possibly understated. If the holding is positive it will give legal recognition to thousands (if not millions) of same-sex marriages — the same legal rights accorded heterosexuals. Now, whether I believe in the institution of marriage is not as important as whether I believe the LGBT community should be offered the same constitutional and legal rights as its heterosexual counterparts.

That’s called equality, people, and as a social justice activist, I believe it should be afforded and embraced by all. And to the critics out there who declare that this threatens the institution of marriage and by extension the American family, I am still waiting to hear any sound examples of causality. Take your time. I’m here all week.

Yet, I am not just an activist but the student coordinator of the Queer Student Center here at UMass Boston, a graduating senior and a queer woman, and as such my thoughts turn less to the meso and macro and more to the micro. I think about the married couples and their families of The Q who would no longer have to fear losing their rights as a married couple as soon as they crossed the Massachusetts’ state line.

I think about those members who would like to be legally married someday without fear of having that constitutional privilege stripped away from them by the votes of others. Think about that for a second. Sit with that, if you can, in these United States. A whole class of citizens can have their constitutional rights taken away because others disagreed politically with them. If that’s not an abuse of privilege, I am not sure what is.

I think about my friends back in NY who had to get married in other states and even countries to validate their love. I think about a friend, a woman in transition, who had to legally be wed as a man to claim her rights (and I cannot possibly imagine how psychologically devastating that may have been for her to do so.)

This is not just some in-class poli-sci exercise to discuss the arbitrary devaluation of a citizen within a democracy, nor is it some alcohol-fueled debate in a bar at 1:30 a.m. on a Friday night, nor some heated conversation you have with your parents around the Thanksgiving dinner table. These are real stories affecting real people you know — your classmates and professors, administrators and staff here on campus, your employers and co-workers, the people you sit next to on the T, that family at your local fast food restaurant or down at the park, that couple that just moved in across the street.

For many it is their good friends, close friends, and BFFs, distant relatives, aunts and uncles and favorites cousins. Maybe it’s your brother or sister, mother or father. You’ve seen them up close and personal. You’ve heard their worries and concerns and fears. You’ve seen the depth of their commitments, witnessed their love for each other.

And if you haven’t? Well then, I’d like to challenge you to come out with The Queer Student Center on Saturday, June 8th, to march with us for Boston Pride 2013. I ask you to take a look around as you do and get to know us, and know that what we want are not “special rights” but the same things as you.     



Stephanie Bonvissuto is the student coordinator of the Queer Student Center at UMass Boston.