Suzanne & Geraldine Artis
Suzanne and Geraldine are raising their three boys – Geras, 15, and 13-year old twins Gezani and Zanagee – in Clinton, Connecticut. They have always put the best interests of their children first. Geraldine has coached their soccer and basketball teams, with help from Suzanne. Out of concern that they get the best possible education, Suzanne and Geraldine adjusted their work schedules so they could home school their boys through grade six, at which point they began attending a community school.
“Home schooling allowed us to basically tailor school for them and not put any grade restraints or age restraints on them,” says Geraldine, who is studying for a master’s degree in counseling.
“We really feel we know our kids the best,” Suzanne, a school librarian, explains of their decision to home school. “And the other thing that we love about it is it builds a lot of unity in our family.”
But DOMA is undermining their family unity. The law prevents them from filing their federal taxes jointly, as other married couples can, so every year they are required to “carve up” their family on their tax forms because they can’t both claim their children as dependents. In some years Suzanne has claimed them, in others Geraldine. In some instances, Suzanne has claimed one child while Geraldine claimed the other two, and vice versa. The idea of creating a paper trail that does not honestly and accurately reflect their children’s parentage is extremely unsettling for Suzanne and Geraldine.
“If the papers say that I’m the only parent, or vice versa, I worry that if something happened to one of us, would there be any issue?,” says Suzanne. “It just starts to make you doubt if they’re really going to respect the marriage in other ways when it comes to our kids. We’re covered in so many ways, but still, it just bothers me.”
On top of that, Suzanne and Geraldine are forced to pay extra taxes because of their inability to file jointly. On their 2009 taxes, for instance, they paid nearly $1500 extra to the federal government. That’s money they could be using to pay household expenses or putting into college funds.
Suzanne and Geraldine have been together for nearly 20 years. They legally married in 2009, and were joined in a civil union ceremony before that. Geraldine and Suzanne thought the right to marry legally in their home state would complete the dream of their family, a family they built based on love, responsibility, honesty and respect. Unfortunately they were unprepared for the discriminatory impact DOMA would have on their family.
“I don’t see why our marriage certificate is not recognized,” says Geraldine, “when it is the exact same document that heterosexual couples have.”