Gardner Pride president, local travel to Washington D.C.

Historic legislation was signed on Tuesday, Dec. 13 by President Joe Biden on the White House Lawn.

Local LGBTQ+ activist Jae Moyer was invited to attend the signing of the “Respect for Marriage Act” and brought Gardner Pride President Cammie McIver with them.

“I was surprised and honored to receive an invite to the White House to witness President Biden sign the Respect for Marriage Act into law,” Moyer said. “I was happy to bring Cammie McIver with me for the excellent work she is doing with the Pride group in Gardner on LGBTQ+ rights.”

McIver said she was honored Moyer invited her to attend with them.

“Jae is very vocal in local and state politics advocating for reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights,” she said. “Being present for the signing of the Respect for Marriage act was unreal to me because it felt like just yesterday I watched a movie thinking my life’s reality would be fighting to have my love and relationships recognized. But oh how far we have come.”

McIver said it was in 2001 when she watched the movie “If These Walls Could Talk 2” that features three stories about three lesbian couples in three different time periods. The couple in 1961 spent their lives together and after 30 years of marriage one dies from an accident in their backyard they had shared for 30 years. The doctor tells the surviving partner at the hospital that the other may have suffered from a stroke, but is not permitted to see her because she is not a family member. She spends the night in the waiting room and learns the next morning from a nurse that her partner had died alone overnight. The house was in the partner’s name, so the surviving partner loses everything. “At the time I watched this movie I was almost 20 and had recently been disowned by my parents for being a lesbian,” McIver said. “My first marriage was not legal in the U.S. We couldn’t be on each others’ health insurance. We couldn’t get fertility treatments to start a family. We couldn’t buy a home together, a car together. These stressors ultimately had some impact on why our relationship ended.”

McIver said when she had her two children she still couldn’t marry her partner or have them listed on the children’s birth certificates. She started advocacy work when her oldest son was born.

“I didn’t want him to grow up not knowing what could happen if I died,” she said. “Would his other Mom get to keep him? Would my parents try to take him? Now I know my wife will keep our children. She is their legal parent.”

McIver said she started focusing on small town advocacy by being involved on pride boards, addressing city councils and school boards.

“Many people don’t know what it feels like to have their marriage threatened, what kind of anxiety it causes,” she said.

Moyer said it was exciting to stand on the White House lawn near some major national political figures, such as Pete Buttigieg, Deb Haaland, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Vice President Kamala Harris, and President Joe Biden.

“We also got to meet with our congresswoman, Sharice Davids, who is also a champion for LGBTQ+ rights in Kansas, and in our country,” they said.

Davids said she was proud to help introduce the bipartisan legislation.

“I will continue to work so folks in Kansas and across the entire country have equal protection under law,” she said.

The Respect for Marriage Act guarantees federal recognition of same-sex and interracial marriages. It was passed through Congress as a compromised backstop in case the Supreme Court overruled its prior decisions. The prior decisions are considered the legal basis for these rights. The constitutional rights are guaranteed only by this precedent. Every state is required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex and interracial couples since the 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges and the 1967 ruling in Loving v. Virginia.

If the Supreme Court decides to overrule these precedents then the Respect for Marriage Act is used as a limited remedy. It does not give a nationwide right and does not require states to perform same-sex and interracial marriages. States are still free to deny licenses if the Supreme Court precedents are overruled.

The Respect for Marriage Act requires federal government and all states to recognize the marries if they were legally performed in the past or in the future where they are still legal, including other states. As of 2021, 710,000 same-sex couples were registered as legally married according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 10 percent of married households were interracial as of 20122016. They can not be denied the civil benefits of their unions in any state if court precedents are overruled.

Prior to the Obergefell ruling, 32 states prohibited same-sex marriages. Most of these laws still remain on the books. The law does not prevent a state from legally challenging Obergefell or Loving, but marriages legally performed in one state need to be honored everywhere.

The Respect for Marriage Act also offers protections for religious groups with moral objections. They are not required to provide goods or services to the marriages they object to and their tax-exempt status cannot be rescinded for refusing or respecting a marriage.

Currently no legal case is headed to or before the court on marriage issues.

McIver said she is married now and her wife had their son with help from covered fertility treatments.

“I am listed on his birth certificate, but I still have to adopt him,” she said. “This work is endless.”

McIver said being present for the signing of the Respect for Marriage Act, however was unreal to her.

Moyer said it was a tremendous honor to witness American history being made with the signing of the bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act.

“I am very excited to see both Democrats and Republicans working across the aisle in congress to get protections for my community done,” they said. “I hope to see more of this, especially from other elected officials in Kansas who did not support this legislation- includ-ing my two US Senators, Jerry Moran and Roger Marshall. While I am disappointed in their inaction to respect all marriages, (which is overwhelmingly popular among Americans), I am proud of the lawmakers who represent me in Kansas and in DC who are fighting for better protections for the LGBTQ+ community.”