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DignityUSA Executive Director Witnesses at Prayer Service Prior to Supreme Court Hearings on Prop 8 and DOMA

Marianne Duddy-Burke was asked to provide a Catholic witness at an Interfaith Prayer service held at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Boston, MA on March 25, 2013, on the eve of Supreme Court hearings on Proposition 8 and DOMA. Below is her testimony:

             I am a married lesbian mom, and I am a Catholic. The events of this week have tremendous significance to me, to my family, and to many people whom I love all across this country. How the Supreme Court rules on the Proposition 8 and DOMA cases it will hear this week will have far-reaching impact on millions of Americans for generations to come. This is a pivotal moment in our country, and one that it makes sense to face grounded in prayer and in community, as we are here.

            Because we live in Massachusetts, the first state in our nation to legally recognize the marriages of same-sex couples, my family and I are seen as legally equal to everyone else under the laws of this Commonwealth. Our daughters know that their parents’ commitment to one another is treated just like that of their friends with a mom and a dad. That is a great thing.

            However, even here, we are not fully equal to our neighbors, to other families at our daughters’ school, to other members of our faith community. In the eyes of federal agencies, my spouse and I are legal strangers. We file taxes separately, and have no right to each other’s Social Security survivors’ benefits. There is a lack of clarity about what to say on our passport applications when we are asked if we are now or have ever been married. We definitely feel like second class citizens in our country. And we are very much aware that if our life course brings our family to be with extended family in California, Georgia or Pennsylvania, our daughters could have to deal with questions about whether their moms are “really” married.

            There are tens of thousands of couples like us across the US, hundreds of thousands who have not had the opportunity to enjoy even state-level validation of their relationships, and even more people who have come to see the injustice in barring the lesbian, gay, and bisexual friends, family members, or neighbors,  in same-sex relationships from marriage. They understand that having some families face legal, economic, and administrative barriers that are not a reality for other families is just an unconscionable situation that cannot be allowed to continue. It is a matter of justice and fairness, and it is a matter of creating more loving, supportive communities.

             I have a special message for the justices on our highest court, and especially for the six Catholic justices, who will hear and deliberate on these cases. You bear an awesome responsibility, and your work reverberates through both our national culture and through individual’s lives on a daily basis. I appreciate that each of you will approach this issue with a commitment to listening to and challenging the best arguments presented by attorneys for both sides, and then to deliberate with profound awareness of the impact your decisions will have. My heartfelt prayer is that you know that both the law of our land and sacred law demand the dismantling of unjust structures and systems that create and sustain inequity, and that you acknowledge that Proposition 8 and DOMA are clear examples of this kind of structure. If you see this, then the path forward will be clear, and you will have helped move our nation to fulfill our constitutional aspirations of forming a more perfect union, establishing justice, promoting the general welfare and securing the blessings of liberty.

            To all who gather here, and in similar assemblies all across the nation tonight, tomorrow, and in the days to come, I ask that we hold everyone carrying our hopes and our dreams for justice enlarged in our hearts and in our prayers. May we pray, too, for those who truly believe our nation is best served by maintaining the status quo. We form one nation, and while we may disagree, we need to be at peace with one another. May these Supreme Court hearings provide opportunity for peaceable dialogue.

        May the God of love and justice guide the deliberations, and inspire our continuing work.  Amen.

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