A CT Family Waits For DOMA Decision

Jun 19, 2013

The US Supreme Court still has to rule on several major cases before the end of the term. Same-sex couples across the country are waiting for a decision on The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.  A report now on how the DOMA ruling may affect one Connecticut family.

Under Connecticut law, same-sex couples can marry and adopt children.  But under DOMA and in the eyes of the federal government same sex marriage is not valid.

"This is my room, the best room in the house because I sleep in it!"

11-year old Nicole Nittardi gives me a tour of her family’s home in Southbury.

"And that’s the parents’ bedroom. They have a bathroom with just a sink."

The parents are downstairs, sitting around the kitchen table.  They’re a same-sex couple who adopted Nicole and her brother from Connecticut’s foster care system

One of the dads is Ray Acunto, a 44-year old website developer. He says the DOMA decision is something the family has waited for, for a long time.

"If DOMA were to be decided in our favor, the stress that we’ve been under would end and we’d have a sense of permanence that we haven’t had in all the time we’ve been together."

DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages or providing same sex spouses with federal benefits. So Acunto is not able to help his foreign-born spouse get permanent residence in the US.

"Generally when an American marries a non-American that non-American is eligible for a green card, unless you marry a foreigner of the same sex."

41-year old Massimo Nittardi is from Italy. He’s spent the past sixteen years in the US going from one temporary visa to the next. He’s currently here under a work visa that expires next year.

"So if this doesn’t work out for me, the question remains  what do we do after?  Do we pack everything up? Sell the house? We don’t really want to upend our lives, uproot everybody and just leave."

New Haven Attorney Glenn Formica represents Nittardi. He calls DOMA an “oddity”, because under the Constitution it’s the states, not the federal government, that regulate marriage.

"Why the federal government is stepping in and saying even though constitutionally, even though historically, this is a state issue, we feel obliged to speak about marriage…it’s just not the traditional role of the federal government."

President Obama has taken the unusual step of declining to defend DOMA in court.   But supporters of the law say that for the thousands of years, marriage has been defined as the union between a man and woman. 

In Southbury, Nicole and her brother are having a wrestling match. "Someone’s gonna fall!"

Nittardi says their family life is pretty routine.

"We get up,  take the kids to school, go to work, come back home, pick them up, have dinner and go to bed.  Why all the animosity? Why all the stumbling blocks?"

If DOMA is upheld, Nittardi and Acunto say they’ll probably leave Connecticut and move with the children overseas.  But for now, this family is anxiously waiting for news from the U.S. Supreme Court.

A decision is expected by the end of June.  

For WNPR, I’m Diane Orson.