Texas State staff and faculty who are part of the LGBTQIA acronym remember past struggles and celebrate new victories after the June 26 Supreme Court decision to strike down state-level same-sex marriage bans.
Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Intersex Aesexual (LGBTQIA) university employees are already enjoying new rights and benefits resulting from the historic decision. The ruling has allowed same-sex couples at Texas State to obtain marriage licenses locally, extend benefits to spouses and children and feel a new level of equality in their own communities.
Texas State employees will be eligible to enroll their same-sex spouses and dependent children in the same coverages and services as opposite-sex spouses, at the same cost starting July 1, according to an email from Bill Nance, vice president for Finance and Support Services.
Wahl’s family will not be directly affected by the change because her wife currently has access to insurance as an employee for Travis County.
“But I know there are a lot of couples that are affected by this that can now add their spouse who had private insurance that was really expensive and maybe not as great coverage,” Wahl said.
Susan Taylor, University Police Department officer, said she is one of those employees who will see a benefit from the decision.
Taylor said her wife, who has a history of medical issues and has required surgery several times, has had to pay high insurance premiums in the past.
Cheaper insurance is not the only improvement the couple will see, Taylor said.
When her wife underwent surgery two weeks ago, Taylor was forced to bring legal documents to the hospital to ensure visitation rights if something went wrong, she said. If complications arose during surgery, there was a chance Taylor would not be allowed to see her wife before she died.
“It sucks,” Taylor said. “It’s terrible. It’s horrible.”
The Supreme Court’s decision means she does not have to worry about being locked out of her wife’s hospital room anymore, Taylor said.
“I can’t complain about that,” Taylor said.
Heather Aidala, assistant director of clinical services at Texas State’s Counseling Center, said she travelled to Massachusetts with Manda Anderson, her partner of five years, to get married days before the Supreme Court decision.
The couple returned to Texas June 23, knowing their marriage would not be recognized by the state, Aidala said.
“I’ve got a supportive work environment, an awesome community, but it was disheartening for me to think we were coming back married, to a state that would not recognize that marriage,” Aidala said.
She and Anderson met in 2007 at the university and bonded over a common passion— helping and advising LGBTQIA students.
Aidala was heavily involved with Texas State Allies, the campus LGBTQIA support group, at the time, she said. Anderson was employed as an academic adviser and involved with LAMBDA, Aidala said.
“We kind of traveled in the same circle for a long time,” Aidala said.
In 2008, they helped found the Bobcat Pride Scholarship Fund, a nonprofit organization aimed at raising tuition for LGBTQIA students, Aidala said. Two years later, they began dating.
This year she and Anderson celebrated the five year anniversary of the scholarship and the beginning of their romantic relationship, Aidala said. Next year, they will celebrate their first wedding anniversary.
Angelika Wahl, an office manager in the geology department, and her civil partner of 17 years married hours after hearing the news of the Supreme Court decision. After picking their kids up from a Taekwondo summer camp, the couple drove to the Travis County Clerk’s Office.
They never expected to see Texas recognize same-sex marriages within their lifetimes, Wahl said.
“We were happy to drive to Austin with our kids and sit for two-and-a-half hours and wait to be one of the 300 licenses issued in Travis County on Friday,” Wahl said. “It was a surreal day.”
On July 4, they will participate in Marriage Freedom Weekend, a public same-sex marriage ceremony hosted by getmarriedtexas.org, Wahl said.
Wahl said their marriage will not drastically change their romantic relationship, but they are relieved to receive equal protection under the law.
“It doesn’t change our day to day life,” Wahl said. “It just protects us.”
Although the same-sex marriage decision was a major victory for same-sex couples, the LGBTQIA community still faces other hurdles in the fight for equality, Taylor said.
“It certainly doesn’t mean the gay community, the (LGBTQIA) community, will sit back and just kick our feet up and be married and watch TV,” Taylor said. “We’ll continue to raise people up and build people up and hopefully get everybody to where we all have a seat at the table.”