DOMA Supreme Court: Step Out of the Bubble and Remember, We Still Live In a Divided Country

I just hung my American flag up on our porch, which is normally something I reserve for for patriotic holidays. Living in Washington, D.C. and having traveled to 52+ countries, I treat our house as an embassy of sorts — every week, a new exotic flag hangs to celebrate the wonderful international diversity of my and my husband’s lives. Today, I am proud to be an American.

I also often fly the North Carolina flag from our porch (probably even more often than the American one). As a native North Carolinian hailing from the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, I can honestly and wisely say that there are few places in the world more stunning. And as much as we travel, I often talk to my husband about moving back there one day. In fact, we held our wedding reception at my parent’s North Carolina home just last month. It was almost the perfect place to celebrate such an occasion. But not quite.

Today’s Supreme Court decision nullifying part of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is most certainly a step in the right direction. Today, like so many other Americans, my husband and I can now file joint tax returns (very sexy indeed) and I could now sponsor him for a green card if he didn’t have his citizenship already (I am very lucky that he does), among many other seemingly banal acts. Yet, I can’t help but think that these middle-of-the-road court decisions further exacerbate the notion that we continue to live in a country divided. Just last year, North Carolinians approved a statewide constitutional ban on same-sex marriage paralleling so many other Southern and Midwestern states. They left a civil rights issue up to popular vote! Unfortunately, I draw a comparison to the geographies of the antebellum United States, in which certain inequalities existed against a class of people in similar geographic areas. Today, we are left with an eerily divided country: In 13 states and D.C. (mostly northern and eastern states, plus California), my husband and I are treated equal in the eyes of the law. But in other states (mostly the South and Midwest), we remain second-class citizens, unrecognized and unequal. Without wide sweeping equality legislation in many of these states, I could be fired for something as innocent as having a photograph of my husband on my desk at work.

I’ve often joked that I need a passport to return home, as things are so different living in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic compared with the South. Today, while talk of the repeal of DOMA pulsates within my heart and victorious pride keeps me upright, a dark melancholy still presides, as I still feel somewhat abandoned in this country divided. There are many lingering battles to be fought until homosexuals are treated equal under the eyes of the law in every jurisdiction. While some polls suggest the majority of North Carolinians won’t approve of same-sex marriage for another six years, we can’t leave it to popular opinion to bestow equality among citizens. All Americans should expect our government and our judiciary systems to be more progressive and forward-thinking, just as our Founding Fathers were so many years ago.

Today’s victory against DOMA is inspiring and a beacon of hope for our future. But our charging orders are clear: My husband and I, and so many of the advocates for progress and equality, must continue to stand and remind those governing bodies of that progressive and innovative spirit that is so embedded in the foundation of this nation. Or else we will remain a country inferior, far surpassed by the progressive social drive of other societies beyond our borders.