Over the course of Spring Break, my traditionally blue Facebook page was turning red. My friends, it seems, are overwhelmingly supportive of gay rights, changing everything from their profile pictures to their banners in response to the recent Supreme Court case, United States v. Windsor. Likewise, thousands more rallied outside the high court to show their support for marriage equality, hoping that change will come with the ruling.
But the case in its original context is not about legalizing gay marriage. Instead, it is a dispute about taxes. Edith Windsor, the plaintiff, and Thea Spyer, her partner of 41 years, married in Canada six years ago. When Spyer died two years after the marriage, Windsor received her partner’s estate, along with a tax bill for more than $300,000. According to the federal court, the Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, prevented Windsor’s eligibility for a spousal tax deduction because it can only be awarded to opposite-sex couples, even if a same-sex couple is legally married under state law.
I have been watching this debate from afar, weighing my opinion, not quite willing to change my Facebook photo to the red equal sign that has so quickly became a symbol of the debate. I say this, not because I am interested in protecting the sanctity of marriage (having studied the history of marriage with Lane Fenrich, I have learned that this sanctity is nearly nonexistent in America), but because I have been grappling with the debate in the context of my politics (liberal) and my religion (not so liberal).