Professor not interested in state validation of her relationship


Join us in celebrating the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. To gear up for the June 26 anniversary, msnbc will feature couples’ and individuals’ reflections on the impact the decision has had on their lives and the future of the LGBT rights fight in the United States. 

In the last year, marriage equality has come to nine states. Federal judges have also struck down same-sex marriage bans in Idaho, Oklahoma, Virginia, Michigan, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin, though their decisions are on hold pending appeals.

No ban on same-sex nuptials has survived in federal court since DOMA’s demise. And, as of this month, every remaining ban has been hit with a legal challenge. Both marriage equality advocates, and opponents alike, believe it won’t be long before the issue is once again before the U.S. Supreme Court, and ultimately legalized throughout the nation.

Share your own #msnbcpride stories, here. 

Suzanna Walters
Courtesy of Suzanna Walters

Name: Suzanna Danuta Walters

City, State: Boston, MA

Profession: Professor of sociology at Northeastern University

Below are Suzanna’s responses to the questions.

Have you noticed a general shift in attitude toward the LGBT community since the Supreme Court ruling? 

Well, I do think there is a sense of victory achieved and of a kind of inevitability to marriage equality. Not only was the Supreme Court ruling so positive, but we have witnessed a domino-effect where state after state is marching into the equality corner with a rapidity that no-one could have predicted. So I think the last 10 years or so have seen such tremendous shifts – from the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” to celebrity outings to marriage equality to the most recent executive order from Obama on nondiscrimination in government contracts – that the LGBT community is sensing that we are on the cusp of really substantial shifts in American culture.

What are the ways in which the DOMA ruling has fallen short?

It didn’t, of course, completely overturn DOMA and, therefore, we do now need to wait for one of these new state cases to come up to the Supreme Court so that marriage equality is the law of the land, not just the law in a few states. So there is clearly more work to be done to rid ourselves of the last vestiges of that particular form of exclusion. There remains, as a result of the ruling, much confusion about how to handle the differing laws in different states and how people legally married in one state get dealt with in states that still have their own state-wide “mini-DOMAs.” And, of course, there is still the issue of federal taxation law and benefits that are federally adjudicated.

What would you like President Obama and future leaders to prioritize in terms of LGBT rights?  

I would like to see us shift away from the almost single-minded focus on marriage and deal with employment discrimination, transgender inclusion, the disproportionate rate of homeless youth who are LGBT, immigration issues, etc. I would also like us to prioritize a deeper and more thoroughgoing embrace of gender and sexual difference. We’ve gotten stuck on “tolerance” and “acceptance,” and we need to think in deeper and more substantive ways about embracing and celebrating gay folk, and really allowing the challenge of “queerness” in all its forms to positively affect us all.

If you were married recently, how has it affected your lives? 

I am not married, because I am not interested in a state validation of my relationship, nor am I interested in being a part of an institution that historically has been the site of so much violence and exclusion.  

“I am not married, because I am not interested in a state validation of my relationship nor am I interested in being a part of an institution that historically has been the site of so much violence and exclusion.”
Professor Suzanna Walters, #msnbcpride

What are your hopes and dreams for the next generation or [for your children]? 

I do hope that my daughter and those of her generation really can continue in the path of liberation from narrow ideas of sexuality and gender. I hope they embrace more utopian dreams of a future where individuals are not defined by rigid and stereotyped ideas of “masculine” and “feminine” and where true sexual and gender freedom is not narrowly defined as access to some institutions (like marriage) but rather by deep integration into every facet of American society.

Read Professor Walters’ newly published book: The Tolerance Trap: How God, Genes, and Good Intentions are Sabotaging Gay Equality (NYU Press 2014) and catch her on Twitter @SuzannaDWalters.

Meet the other faces of #msnbcpride 

Boston, DOMA, Marriage, Marriage Equality, Road Trip and Transgender

Professor not interested in state validation of her relationship