Local Couple Waits For Decision On Marriage Equality

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On paper, April Vale and Dani Underhill appear to be your typical married couple: two kids, two dogs, busy home and work lives, dreams of having a third child and buying a house.

But April and Dani face challenges and obstacles other married couples don’t because they happen to be two women.

“I just want what the heterosexual couples have,” April said.

The pair met three years ago, thanks to fate and social media. If it weren’t for that, Dani may have forever remained the “Staples girl.”

“I’d seen her on the mutual friend’s site and friended her and started talking,” April said.

“It was an alignment of the stars because I was off on vacation that week so I was just on the computer,” Dani said.

The couple legally married in New York City a year ago this past April. New York is one of 12 states along with Washington, D.C. that legally allow same-sex couples to marry. However, because of a ban on same-sex marriage in Ohio and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), April and Dani’s union isn’t recognized by the federal government or the state of Ohio.

“We pay more,” Dani said. “We pay more in taxes. We pay more in little things like car insurance.”

Tax experts estimate married same-sex couples pay as much as $6,000 more a year in taxes because of DOMA.  According to the Human Rights Campaign, marital status provides 1,138 federal benefits and responsibilities to a couple.

Now, with a decision by the Supreme Court on two big cases regarding the issue of marriage equality expected to be handed down this month, April and Dani along with the rest of the LGBT community in Athens is waiting for a decision they hope meams the federal government will no longer treat same-sex married couples like “second-class citizens.”

“It can be a huge validation for the whole movement or it can be a giant step backwards,” Dani said.

In March, the court heard oral arguments in a case challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibits federal benefits for and recognition of same-sex marriages.

A ruling finding Section 3 unconstitutional would mean April and Dani would be eligible for those 1,138 federal benefits and responsibilities.

“There is the financial gain that comes of being able to file federal taxes together which puts us in a whole different tax bracket,” Dani said. “[Not having to] pay taxes on her healthcare, which currently I’m paying a ton on since she’s on mine.”

The couple says federal recognition of the their marriage gives them not only greater financial freedom to pursue their dreams of building a better life together but the comfort in knowing their government accepts and recognizes their relationship as equal under the law.