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JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS - July 2016 - Kansas City
Love Wins-Equal Dignity in the Eyes of the Law
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
It is certain that times are ‘a changin’, especially the attitudes in this country towards gay marriage. When one of the first legal cases for gay marriage was made in 1970 about seventy percent thought gay marriage was ‘always wrong’ and only ten percent thought it was ‘not wrong at all.’ The latest Pew Survey tells us that fifty-eight percent favor gay marriage and thirty-seven percent oppose it.
Looking at age groups today, eighty-one percent of millenials (18-29) support gay marriage. The numbers go down as we look at older age groups. However, even those numbers have changed favorably.
We just celebrated the one-year anniversary, June 26, 2015, of the Supreme Court’s decision-making same-sex marriage legal nationwide. This, for me, and many others, is a cause for great joy. My partner and I celebrated by marrying each other in late June feted by over ninety of our friends and family. It has made me think of my personal forty-year journey as a gay person and, more profoundly, the long public legal journey for many gay and lesbian couples.
Roberta Kaplan with Lisa Dickey chronicles one of the most moving stories in Then Comes Marriage: United States v. Windsor and the Defeat of DOMA. The love story of Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer is rare and beautiful. They first met in the early 60’s, had an off and on relationship until 1967 when Edie proposed to Thea giving her a diamond brooch. This was to be a forty-year engagement. They began their relationship at a time when being gay or lesbian was not recognized or affirmed socially or legally.
Edie was a mostly self-taught computer program genius working in the early stages of computer development. Thea became a Clinical Psychologist and saw patients in their apartment in New York. About ten years after they began their life together Thea began having symptoms, later diagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis. Over the next thirty years she became more physically debilitated, eventually becoming a quadriplegic. Edie retired in 1974 and spent a lot of her time taking care of Thea, who continued to see patients.
They had a sign on their refrigerator that said, “Don’t Postpone Joy” and they lived that motto. They loved dancing and continued to do so even when Thea was confined to a wheelchair. As Thea’s health was deteriorating, they knew they wanted to be married. With great difficulty and much planning they traveled to Toronto to be married. The presiding judge said, “You have come to know and love each other, you have found joy and meaning together, and you have chosen to live your lives together.” Their love had finally been socially and legally affirmed!
Two years later in April of 2009, Thea died peacefully. It was then that Edie’s legal and financial problems began as she was hit with a huge estate tax, which made a financial hardship for her. It was at this time that Roberta Kaplan, an attorney and her firm, took the case to represent Edie. Through many courts battles, strategizing with persistence, on June 26, 2013, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was declared unconstitutional. Married gay couples now had protection and recognition under federal law. This was the next stepping-stone to the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, the multiple cases in which gay and Lesbian Americans argued that the U.S. Constitution guaranteed them a right to marriage. On June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage was declared legal nationwide.
Change comes through courage and determination and in the case of Thea and Edie, through great love and indomitable joy.
Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to
Image Licensed by Ingram Images.