“Jeanine, Marry Me?”
Jackie Simpson, director of the Spectrum Center, spelled these words in yellow and red rose petals at the Michigan Union fountain and posed for a picture June 26. She was inspired by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark action that day to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
The message was posted on Twitter and Facebook, for Simpson’s long-time partner Jeanine Bessette to see.
“Yes,” she replied.
The timing was right, Simpson says. “When we committed to each other 18 years ago, part of what we decided was we were not going to have a commitment ceremony or do anything unless it mattered, unless what we did carried some weight to it. Wednesday was the day it mattered,” she says.
Still, the proposal wasn’t actually planned. “It was kind of impulsive,” Simpson says.
By 5-4, the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, is unconstitutional. Currently, 12 states and the District of Columbia authorize same-sex marriages.
Upon hearing the ruling, “I was ecstatic and shocked at the same time,” Simpson says. “I was hopeful that this would happen in my lifetime and, yet, sometimes it felt like it would never happen.”
She says the court’s decision is an important step in recognizing LGBTQ people as equal citizens. “I know for some, marriage does not feel like the issue that speaks to equality, but for now, it is one of the only things we have,” Simpson says. She adds that LGBTQ people will now be able to receive many benefits heterosexual couples receive, and binational couples can now apply for green cards, for a partner. “That is huge,” Simpson says.
The court decision was followed by a celebration that afternoon at the Jim Toy Community Center. Simpson told the group that while there is still much to do and many causes to fight for, it is OK to take a couple of hours to just celebrate. “Sometimes we forget that it is also important to sometimes just be happy,” she says.
Simpson says she expects many court cases will arise in states where same-sex marriages are not allowed, over negotiating federal and state benefits for same-sex couples. “It’s going to get very complicated,” she says.
While Michigan hasn’t legalized same-sex marriages, Simpson says she and Bessette, director of Residence Life at Wayne State University, would probably seek to marry in Iowa. They met while working at Iowa State University. “Our ceremony and reception will be in Ann Arbor,” she says.
They plan to marry June 6 or 7 next year, Simpson says.
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Noam Chomsky: “Language Use and Design: conflicts and their significance,” 7 p.m. July 11, Rackham Auditorium, part of the 2013 Linguistics Institute.