Same-Sex Couple Praises Federal Judge's Ruling on DOMA

James "Flint" Gehre and Brad Kleinerman of Avon are two of many plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the federal government claiming that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional.

Last year, Avon couple James "Flint" Gehre and Bradley Kleinerman paid $8,000 more in income taxes because while Connecticut recognizes them as legally married, the federal goverment does not. Their first year of marriage in 2009 it was around $2,000, Gehre said.

But having to file separate tax forms is just one of about 1,100 protections that the same-sex couple is denied by the federal government, Gehre said, because of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

That is all one step closer to changing. Last week, U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional because it violates the Fifth Amendment, the Associated Press reported. That is the amendment that ensures the right to equal protection. In February, the Obama administration deemed the section of DOMA unconstitutional.

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Gehre and Kleinerman are one of six married same-sex couples along with a widower from Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont who are a part of the lawsuit Pedersen et al vs. Office of Personnel Management et al, according to an article about the case on the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders website. GLAD filed the lawsuit in November 2010.

"We're very pleased with the ruling," Gehre said. "It's another series of rulings in our favor, exposing DOMA for what it is – a law based on discrimination."

There will likely be appeals, but if the lawsuit prevails, Gehre said, the federal government will recognize "our family is as equal as other families."

Gehre and Kleinerman, who have been together for 21 years, came to Avon five years ago to raise a family because they thought the town had the "right environment" and quality schools. The Southern California natives have three adopted children, Raymond, 20, Rick, 19, and Joseph, 10, according to the GLAD website. Kleinerman works at CIGNA Healthcare and Gehre, now a stay-at-home dad, is a former teacher and police officer, GLAD reports.

"There are many federal rights people take for granted" that same-sex couples are not able to access, Gehre said.

While married heterosexual couples can file joint federal tax returns, gay and lesbian couples can't. But another major concern for Gehre is inheritance. He and his husband have to "take extra legal steps" to make sure that if something happens to one of them, all of their assets can go to their spouse.

There are several benefits that Gehre, his husband and their children are denied as a result of DOMA. For instance, Gehre previously said the law does not allow him or his husband to put his family on their medical benefits plan.

In a state where same-sex marriage isn't legal, Gehre and Kleinerman would not have visitation rights for each other in a hospital.

While the process of trying to overturn DOMA is still ongoing, the Avon couple is happy that last week's ruling is a sign that their cause continues to gain momentum.

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