Stanford Students React to DOMA and Marriage Equality

by Sammie Wills, ’16

Yesterday, on June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional by a 5-4 vote, because “it violated the right to liberty and to equal protection for gay couples.” With this decision, Facebook exploded with the reactions of many individuals — some full of sheer bliss, some seething with anger, and some couldn’t care less.

I wanted to explore some of these reactions, and hear first-hand what students and alumni had to say about the recent rulings.


I’m often not sure what to say about marriage equality. How do you explain “the HRC is a terrible organization, privileges white cis gay people, especially men” and “marriage equality is a conservative cause” and at the same time, mention that many working-class LGBT families of color would do a lot better given marriage rights?  How do you talk about the problem of marriage being assimilation and making it harder for other families (especially where kids are involved), without making your friends who are married or want to get married think you may be belittling their lifestyle choices or ignoring their economic needs?  How do I say one thing in less than a paragraph this length?  But this post is a must-read.  

— Elizabeth S. Q. Goodman, Graduate Student


Equality is not won in a day or by one court decision. Marriage is not the most important issue for LGBTQ people in the United States. Housing discrimination, employment discrimination, the assaults on and murders of transgender women of color, the invisibility of LGBTQ people of color, and issues facing homeless LGBTQ youth are incredibly important and we need to be working on them. My hope is that the important LGBTQ rights and issues still being fought for continue to receive attention after the glow of the right to marriage disappears.

— Cole Pittman, Undergraduate Student


Today, the Court has helped advance our nation towards a brighter future in another realm: the recognition of the rights of gender and sexual minorities (GSMs), also known as LGBT or queer people. In the limited arena of marriage equality, in the limited areas of California and the states that recognize same-sex marriage rights, it has removed a set of legal barriers preventing same-sex couples from receiving equal treatment under the law, including those that the Defense of Marriage Act had brought about at the federal level. In addition, in the case regarding California’s Proposition 8, the Court indirectly fulfilled a key standard of American republicanism (preventing the tyranny of the majority) by upholding a much more technical legal standard (the standing of to appeal). Thanks to those rulings, we have come so much closer to total marriage equality, bringing us ever closer to when other, equally-important issues of GSM rights can take center stage and finally see resolution as well.

— Johnathan Bowes, Undergraduate Student


As so many of us celebrate today’s ruling on DOMA and Prop 8, let’s not forget some of steps backward that SCOTUS has made this week: voter disenfranchisement, tribal sovereignty, the right to remain silent, and affirmative action. We’re moving several steps forward on marriage equality but we have taken many more in the wrong direction, and I refuse to call this week a “victory.” The same-sex marriage rulings will mostly affect privileged queers in monogamous relationships, and this “victory” does not speak to the larger struggle of poor queers, queers of color, individuals in non-traditional relationships, and trans*, intersex, or genderqueer persons. How can we be happy to say that we have won this one right – when so many others are being ripped away? How can we rest when so many do not define their relationships with the state’s traditional definition of “marriage”? When queers are still subjected to disgusting acts of hate, discrimination, and rejection all over the country? Our communities are more complex than these rulings can capture, and our work is not even half done. I am overjoyed for my friends and family who will now see their love recognized by the state, but my heart breaks for those whose will lose the right to vote, lose the right to keep their children in their community, and lose the right to protect themselves from self-incrimination.  

— Anissa Chitour, Alumni


On April 3, 2009, Shirley Tan was threatened with deportation and separation from her family because her partner was a woman. To many queer immigrant couples who are in situations like Shirley Tan, today’s decision was momentous and lifesaving. With today’s ruling, Shirley and many others can declare their love for each other in marriage and no longer have to fear being separated from their family and loved ones. To me, this is the decision’s real triumph.

Yet, with these benefits in mind, today’s Supreme Court decision is only progress, not a victory. There are too many trans sisters who are entering survival sex trade. There are too many queer youth living homeless on the streets. And there are still too many queer women of color who are being imprisoned, raped, and abused for identifying as a non-normative gender and sexual identity. As a global community, we still have so much work to do in order ensure that all oppressions, from white supremacy to homophobia to imperialism, are demolished. This decision, although momentous, is and should not be the end all, be all.

— Katherine Nasol, Undergraduate Student


I came from France and got my M.S. at Stanford in 1974, a time when the Gay People’s Union was three years old but still pretty invisible (I am now on the Board of the GPU’s successor, Stanford Pride, and value the opportunity to serve our community). I met my partner in Austin on June 25, 1983 – 30 days yesterday. Most of that time, we’ve lived as second-class citizens in either France or the U.S. Even our marriage in Massachusetts in 2005 created a patchwork of a few rights and many denials for us. The passage of a marriage equality law in France a few months ago, and the repeal of (part of) DOMA finally gives us a chance to be legally married in the eyes of both the U.S. and French governments, although as residents of Texas we will still suffer discrimination at home. The repeal of Prop. 8 means, on the other hand, that we could achieve fuller equality by moving to California someday.

Within 24 hours, we said “happy anniversary” to each other, we mailed the paperwork to get our marriage recognized by France, and we woke up to the news of the SCOTUS decisions (with Stanford graduate Stephen Breyer in the majority). No wonder my head is spinning!

— Claude Baudoin, Alumni


Millions of people will give no fucks or forget that last night Wendy Davis and other warriors stood up and spoke out in protest of the assault on women’s rights in Texas; and in the SAME DAMN WEEK (and it’s only Wednesday) SCOTUS threatened indigenous sovereignty, eviscerated the cornerstone legislation of the Civil Rights Movement, is attacking affirmative action, and like just SHITTING on (LGBT and straight) Black and Brown folks…all because lesbian and gay folks can get married. The struggles of some will be forgotten because of the gains of another. A lot of people will feel hopeful and optimistic about the future of this country after today; that we are somehow realizing democratic promises and ideals…but it looks more like 1 step forward, 40+ years back.

Pinkwashing is real, ya’ll.

— Kiyan Williams, Alumni


Equality is not justice.

Healthcare for trans* people is justice. Ending queer homelessness is justice. Overcoming the systematic exclusion of trans* people and people of color from the mainstream, white, gay agenda is justice. Stopping police surveillance of communities of color in the name of “hate crimes” is justice.

To my straight friends, if you have supported gay marriage and wondered “where to go next,” start examining whether you are an ally to poor communities, communities of color, and trans* communities. Ask yourself how this push for gay marriage had branded queer people as “just like you,” and ask yourself if you think there is room for people who are radically different in this movement – but still deserve the same justice as those who wish to get married.

— Violet Trachtenberg, Undergraduate Student


So, what do you think? Leave a comment on your reaction to DOMA, or any of the other SCOTUS decisions from this week.



Sammie Wills is an enthusiastic QPOC of many origins. She is always finding different perspectives, and she is always learning. She loves drinking coffee/tea, having long hair, chilling, chatting, and forming meaningful friendships. If you’d like, you should be her friend.

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