Interview: Bay Area Couple Reacts to DOMA Decision
KQED’s STEPHANIE MARTIN: Today’s Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8 paves the way for same-sex weddings to resume in California, while the ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act makes married gay couples eligible for federal benefits.
Santa Rosa residents Jay and Bryan Leffew are really looking forward to those benefits. They married in 2008 — just before voters passed the Prop. 8 ban on same-sex marriage.
Bryan, I’ll start with you first. How do you think the court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act will change your life?
BRYAN LEFFEW: For starters, it takes away a lot of the uncertainty for the future. There are 1,138 rights and benefits that are conferred federally upon married couples that now gay couples will have access to, and that includes things like social security benefits. So now, for instance if, God forbid, my husband were to pass away in the line of his job as a deputy sheriff, I would be entitled to his social security, his pension — all things that would help me be able to keep our family afloat.
MARTIN: OK, you can pass it over to Jay. Jay, when it comes to the kids, what changes for them?
JAY LEFFEW: I think the protection that our marriage gives them is a protection that all kids should have. We’re guaranteeing them that they’re going to have a safe future in a loving home and that one of us isn’t just going to run off someday when we get tired of the drama.
MARTIN: We should say you have two kids, correct?
JAY: Correct, we have a son and a daughter.
MARTIN: And how old are they?
JAY: My son is 12 years old and my daughter is 8.
MARTIN: So Bryan, Jay told me earlier today that he’s the more optimistic one when it comes to these court rulings and that you view things a bit more cautiously. What concerns do you still have?
BRYAN: My concerns are that as fantastic as today’s DOMA ruling is, it still left it up to a state-by-state fight, which means that states that already have marriage equality are now granted federal recognition. But all the states that don’t have marriage equality now, those individuals that live within those states are going to have to start their own ballot initiatives or find some other route to create marriage equality within their state in order for the federal government to then recognize it.
And that’s just going to create multiple court battles and make this a real terrible mess to have to clean up. But that’s just a part of the longstanding battle we’ve been on, and we know that it’s not over and we have much more work to do.
MARTIN: Jay, we should mention that a lot of people may recognize you and Bryan and your two kids as YouTube stars. Tell me a bit about those videos you’ve been making over the years and what message you’ve been trying to send.
JAY: Well we started making the YouTube videos back when Prop. 8 was actually on the ballot here in California. And we were sitting around at the dinner table one night, and I was complaining that all the commercials on TV were showing our allies and family members talking about why gay marriage or marriage equality is important to gay couples. And they refused to show any LGBT families or couples and I got really frustrated.
So we went to YouTube and we looked to see if there was any other families that were making videos about their lives and we didn’t find any. So we decided that we would create our own channel called “Gay Family Values” and start documenting our day-to-day lives. And it has become an amazing journey for not only my family, but for the 26,000 people that have joined the ride with us. We’ve got a pretty good subscriber base and a lot of support and a lot of love.
MARTIN: Now I understand because of your activism, you and the kids are all invited to all kinds of Bay Area celebrations this evening, but you’re going to have to put those off for something else tonight, right?
JAY: Yeah, you know it’s the most inconvenient day possible for the ruling to come out because Justin Bieber is in town, and my daughter is adamant about seeing him in concert. So we’ve had to make plans to go actually see him, so we’re not going to be involved in any of the celebrations in the Castro, which we’re extremely disappointed about, but kids come first.
MARTIN: Okay, first thing’s first, definitely. Jay and Bryan Leffew, thank you.
JAY: No, thank you. Thank you for having us. It was a pleasure.
BRYAN: Thank you very much.
MARTIN: Jay and Bryan Leffew live in Santa Rosa.
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