Military couple Stacey and Genevieve: Serving our country in the face of DOMA discrimination
June 12, 2013
A year and a half ago, Genevieve Jessee McCall and SFC Stacey Jessee McCall were shopping at Travis Air Force base in Fairfield, CA for a special piece of jewelry: Wedding rings. They had been dating for about a year, and they were excited to take the next step forward in their lives together. They settled on a pair of rings, and as they finished their transaction, an elderly black woman asked the women if she could see.
The woman smiled and showed Stacey and Genevieve the ring that she was about to purchase. "It's from my baby sitting over there," she said, pointing at another elderly black woman sitting in the store. "This is an upgrade for our 30th anniversary."
Stacey and Genevieve were surprised and moved by the couple's story. "It floored us," Genevieve said. "To have this committed elderly black lesbian couple getting their anniversary wedding ring on a military installation at the exact moment we selected ours felt like kismet. We thought we were looking at ourselves in 30 years!"
Stacey's and Genevieve's own love story began in July 2010, when they met for the first time. Both women actually lived in Boston at the same time in the years prior to meeting for the first time - Genevieve was there attending graduate school at Boston University, and Stacey was stationed in the area as a station commander for a recruiting center. They shared a mutual friend in Boston, but they didn't meet until Stacey moved to California for a permanent change of station and Genevieve graduated from BU and returned to her hometown of Oakland, CA, just a half hour from where Stacey was stationed
Stacey and Genevieve began dating shortly after they met "It wasn't long before we realized we had a real connection," Genevieve said. "We started seeing each other regularly before Stacey suddenly decided to move to Oakland, and the turning point from casual to serious happened when she asked me to be her date to an Army ball that was happening during a weekend conference."
In March 2012, they became domestic partners in California, which extended them many of the protections and responsibilities of marriage, but without the dignity and respect that marriage commands. They promised their commitment to each other just a few months later in a beautiful ceremony on the bay in Emeryville, CA on June 23, 2012. "The place was so completely full of love and well wishes for us," Genevieve said. "It was an awesome day."
Now, the women live in Fredericksburg, VA, where they moved in July 2012 after Stacey received a permanent change of station orders. Stacey works there as the Center Commander for the local recruiting stations while Genevieve owns and operates a children's entertainment company. Same-sex couples like Stacey and Genevieve do not have the freedom to marry in Virginia, and their domestic partnership in California is not recognized either.
Even if they were to marry legally in a state where same-sex couples could marry, Stacey and Genevieve would still see their relationship disrespected because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denies federal respect to legally married same-sex couples.
Since Stacey is an employee of the U.S. military, a federal agency, DOMA impacts her and Genevieve in unique ways. "Right now, I don't have any health insurance, although American service members and their families traditionally receive excellent coverage," Genevieve explained. "Stacey also receives the housing allowance for a single, rather than married, soldier, and we could use the money, particularly since she is now stationed in Virginia, a state with incredibly anti-gay legislation on the books."
The couple hopes to have children at some point in the near future, and they'll soon begin working with a fertility clinic to begin the process of having Genevieve carry their first child."We're both incredibly family-oriented people," Genevieve said, explaining that she and Stacey are excited to begin building their family - and that they already have practice taking care of a good friend's child. "I was reared to believe that a family is your wealth." But in Virginia, anti-gay laws prohibit second-parent adoption, which could force the couple to move further from Stacey's post, to Maryland or Washington, D.C., in order to be able to stay legally connected as a family unit.
Genevieve said that DOMA doesn't only impact her relationship with Stacey on a financial level. "In addition to the monetary burden that DOMA creates for us," she said, "DOMA perpetuates and condones a national attitude that we don't deserve the same rights and protections as every other American."
For support in dealing with the harms of DOMA, Genevieve and Stacey have turned to the American Military Partner Association, an organization dedicated to supporting LGBT military families and speaking out against DOMA. "Having this community means that we belong," Genevieve said. "And that's huge. We are just like every other family. We want to love each other, serve our country, and be a recognized and honored part of the fabric of America."
The women are hopeful that the U.S. Supreme Court will take the first step toward overturning DOMA and respecting their relationship. In June, the Court is expected to announce its ruling in Windsor v. United States, which challenges one section of DOMA. Same-sex couples across the country - including hundreds of service members and their spouses - are all hoping that the justices stand on the Right Side of History and remove this hurtful roadblock to equality.
"Being a soldier is incredibly demanding, and it's very hard on military families," Genevieve said. "Military families face many obstacles, and there are programs to ease that burden and support those families. Our family is no exception in facing these burdens - but we must face them without any of the protections that other couples receive, all because of DOMA."