By Ninia Baehr ACLU of Montana
I always cheer when the ACLU wins a Supreme Court case, but I take an especially deep and personal satisfaction in the ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act today.
I was on the steps of the Capitol (See news clipping on the left, with Genora Dancel, Ninia Baehr and Kevin Cathcart.) the day the U.S. Senate passed DOMA – I was saying, “Please don’t do this.”
My partner Genora Dancel and I, along with two other couples, had applied for – and been denied – a marriage license in Hawaii in 1990. In 1991, we filed the lawsuit Baehr v Lewin, and the ACLU submitted a friend of the court brief in support of our rights. At that time, same-sex marriage was not legal in any state or country in the world.
Back then, national LGBT groups did not want to take on the marriage issue, in part because they were concerned about backlash. And, indeed, there was a backlash; DOMA was passed in large part because it looked as if we might win and Hawaii would legalize same-sex marriages. The feds and other states were afraid they might have to recognize Hawaii marriages. Although we did what we could to prevent its passage, Genora and I always felt somehow responsible for DOMA. Thanks to the ACLU’s Windsor v. United States case, today we have witnessed the righting of a wrong.
This historical decision will make a real difference in the lives of real people.
But here in Montana, loving, committed same-sex couples still don’t have the protections they need to take care of their families – such as making emergency medical decisions or having access to equal inheritance rights. In Big Sky Country the ACLU is attempting to right yet another wrong by suing the state for relationship recognition in Donaldson and Guggenheim v State of Montana.