After DOMA

Image via, an organization formed to fight a proposed Constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriage in MN, but repurposed to help make marriage equality the law in the state once the amendment was defeated.
Image via, an organization formed to fight a proposed Constitutional amendment that would have banned gay marriage in MN, but repurposed to help make marriage equality the law in the state once the amendment was defeated.

Today marks the first day that gay couples can legally marry in the states of Rhode Island and Minnesota, the eleventh and thirteenth states respectively to legalize gay marriage. In the wake of  the recent Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Prop 8, many gay and lesbian individuals and allies around the country are celebrating advances in the rights and recognition extended to gay couples on a federal level.

However, in the midst of these celebrations, Rick Settersten points out in a recent LA Times article that same-sex couples, who do not reside in the thirteen states and the District of Columbia where gay marriage is legal, continue to be left out by the law. He states,

For those of us trapped elsewhere in the country—even in places we love—the verdict reinforces the fact that the security of our families and our futures rises or falls depending on where we live.

Highlighting the variation and inconsistency by state in legal rights extended to gay and lesbian partnerships, Settersten describes the reality of gay couples that migrate to states with more legal recognition. Settersten, his partner Dan, and their two children moved from Ohio in 2004 when the state banned recognition of any form of same-sex coupling (marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships). At the time, their new home state of Oregon enabled them to co-adopt children and register as a domestic partnership. Although they have been together for almost thirty years, their domestic partnership in Oregon will not be federally recognized under the DOMA decision, forcing them to move yet again if they want to benefit from federal recognition of their union.

“Halving it All”

Photo by Ted Johnson via

On, sociologist Michael Kimmel weighs in on the veracity of the latest declaration of a “war on men” by author Suzanne Venker (writing for

Rejecting the oh-so-popular tactic Venker employs—“Blame it on feminism!”—Kimmel argues that men still dominate, but attempts at equality may have been disorienting for a group used to a status quo that disproportionately benefits them:

I thought of how painful it is when you are used to having everything to now have only 80%. What a loss! Poor us! Equality sucks when you’ve been on top—and men have been on top for so long that we think it’s a level playing field.

Sass aside, Kimmel writes that equality is what many men want, based on the interviews he did with young men for his book Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. Kimmel refuses to let Venker speak on men’s behalf when she calls for women to “surrender to their nature—their femininity.” Instead, he calls for rethinking what makes forsatisfying gender relations:

Who says we can’t be happy with fully equal female colleagues and coworkers? Who says we can’t enjoy the joys of shared parenthood? Who says that we are biologically programmed to be both rapacious testosterone-driven animals and lazy remote-hogging couch potatoes unable to lift a finger in the kitchen?

Venker paints a most unyieldlingly awful portrait of men, one that is happily belied by actual, real, American men. And we won’t stand for the sort of male-bashing Venker offers. We want it all also —and the only way we can have it all is to halve it all.

Equality vs. Symmetry in Family Work

Photo by Adam Jones, Ph.D. via
How do you decide what "half the work" means? Photo by Adam Jones, Ph.D. via

In a June 2012 TIME Ideas column online, author Judith Warner reflects on the recent work of sociologist Andrea Doucet (of Ontario’s Brock University). Warner writes that Doucet’s focus on shifting family paradigms, as well as women’s increasing numbers in the ranks of “family breadwinners” (that is, primary earners in heterosexual relationships), has led the researcher to look for a change from “50-50″ thinking to a focus on egalitarianism across the board. This leads to “something more like fairness—or like ‘symmetry’.”

Doucet tells Warner:

My overall aim is for gender equality… but it always bothers me when the measures we use are not quick in synch with how people live their lives… Maybe what we need to change then is that larger set of conditions that allow people to make choices that work.

The problem, the author explains, is that, even though many attempts have been made to create greater equality by assuming the gold standard would be “lives of sameness.” Through a series of rhetorical questions, Warner reasons that Doucet’s concept could open up space for families to define egalitarianism based on their own measures of earning power, love of career, and the rewarding (and annoying) aspects of various tasks that keep a family humming along:

It’s something of a “from each according to his abilities to each according to his needs” formulation, one that might, for once, just possibly work. Sharing, as opposed to equality.”

The real key here might lie in changing public discussions to reflect the actual lives of families, who are already negotiating, balancing, and flourishing in egalitarian homes. These mothers and fathers, wives and husbands might just need the vocabulary to explain their (gasp!) Marxist micro-communities.