How Roe Is Changing Queer People's Marriage Plans
The overturn of Roe, the federal protection of abortion access, hasn't just drastically changed the way people are thinking about reproductive rights, contraception, and their sex lives, the ruling also has many queer people fearing for their right to get married.
The concern hinges on Justice Clarence Thomas' concurring opinion on the overturn of Roe. In his opinion, Thomas — who is the longest serving justice on the Supreme Court, having been appointed by former President George H. W. Bush in 1991 — affirmed the overturn of Roe and called on the Supreme Court to "reconsider" its past rulings on contraception access, queer relationships, and marriage equality for gay couples.
"In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court's substantive due process precedents, including Griswold [which defined the right to contraception], Lawrence [which made same-sex sexual activity legal across the country], and Obergefell [which made same-sex marriage legal across the country]," Thomas wrote in the opinion.
Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell are all fundamentally related to Roe because each case raises the question of bodily autonomy, privacy, and civil liberty. With the erasure of abortion rights, there's been a push from Democrats to codify, or enshrine into federal law, gay and interracial marriage via the Respect for Marriage Act. But the bill still has a long way to go before it's passed and its scope is fairly limited.
Because of this, we spoke to queer couples about their views on marriage, and if the Roe ruling and subsequent concurring opinion is changing or speeding up their marriage plans.
Chatham (24) and Clem (23), North Carolina
Chatham and Clem have been together for two years. They began their monogamous relationship as a long-distance couple before moving in together. Both were in high school when same-gender marriage was federally legalized, and the two would like to get married some day.
Roe has definitely changed the way Chatham and Clem plan to navigate marriage. Though it was previously important for Chatham to live together with Clem at least a year before getting engaged, they're not sure if they can afford to wait two years for marriage. "I absolutely feel that marriage equality is threatened and its potential overturn has impacted our plans. For us, marriage is a commitment from the heart, but also a necessity," says Chatham.
Chatham says it's a necessity because they are a disabled, full-time writer "too sick to work a conventional 9-5 job." The couple initially planned to get married before Chatham turned 26, so they could switch from their parent's health insurance to Clem's plan. However, the pressure to get married is at an all-time high now.
"I absolutely feel more anxious to get married. I know some people see gay marriage as a sort of frivolous right, rather than what it is: a necessity," says Chatham. "You have to remember that for gay disabled people, it's a very severe ruling. I sincerely wish rights like hospital visitations and healthcare were awarded to couples who aren't married, but since they aren't, I'm terrified of what a gay marriage overturn could mean for my health and my future."
Haris (29) and B (28), Florida
Haris and B have been together for five years, and the two are currently in a non-monogamous marriage. The couple got married partially out of concern that the right to marry would eventually be taken away. Currently, Haris (who is a trans man) and B feel rushed to get their marriage license updated to reflect Haris's name change.
For B, commitment is important, but legal marriage is more about the legal safety structure and benefits. "[Marriage] has been used as a way to keep queer people from having rights to each other and the financial benefits that come with the tax option." Now, the couple worries that, "one morning, we'll wake up learning that our marriage will be annulled." While considering moving out of the country for years, B says the Roe ruling is speeding up that timeline.
Harris said, "We want to reiterate that this isn't just about controlling how queer people are allowed to love one another, but that it's about the literal removal of rights and access to benefits and the ability to build wealth. If [marriage equality] is overturned, it will make it even harder for queer folks to attain the same financial and environmental security that cishet people [those who both identity with their gender assigned at birth and are heterosexual] are privileged to be born into."
Quinn (32) and Brittney (29), Rhode Island
Quinn and Brittney have been together officially since January 2021, live together, and are non-monogamous. They describe their relationship as healthy and secure. Both generally dislike the concept of marriage and come from divorced parents.
Initially, Quinn and Brittney imagined getting married in a non-legal ceremony with close friends to celebrate their commitment, but since the Roe ruling, they're reconsidering. Quinn said, "With fear of where things are going, we have discussed getting legally married while we still can. We've been planning for next 2024 for a ceremony but if things continue to go downhill, the legal process might happen within the year."
Though these three couples share only a glimpse of the anxieties many queer couples are facing currently, the future of marriage for those in the LGBTQ+ community is still unknown. To help, you can reach out to your local officials right now by phone, email, or mail, and express your concerns. You can also cast your vote in the midterm elections this November and vote for candidates who will fight to protect this right.