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Campus Event Puts Spotlight on “Marriage Penalty”

Posted in: Anthropology, Homepage News and Events

On a punchy hot pink background, in bright yellow writing reads: “‘I DO!’ an evening of humor, activism, and love with PATRICE JETTER disabled artist and advocate from the NETFLIX series, WORN STORIES”. Below that is a collage of images of Patrice, a Black disabled woman in her 50’s. In the images, she wears bright and inventive homemade costumes. In the central image is Patrice and Garry, a white disabled wheelchair user. Patrice wears an extravagant peach wedding dress and Garry is wearing a matching shirt and satin waistcoat, the two are beaming.

Elaine Gerber, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Vice President of the Disability Caucus at Montclair State University, coordinated a campus event in support of marriage equality for disabled Americans.

The event, I DO! Commit to Marriage Equality,  held on Feb. 15 at the School of Communication and Media, brought attention to the economic struggles and limitations disabled couples face if they decide to tie the knot. Currently, many disabled Americans can’t legally marry because they will lose or significantly reduce their state or federal benefits that they often rely on.

The evening culminated with a mass commitment ceremony, similar to the unofficial proceedings disabled couples often opt for to protect their benefits, with the hopes of calling attention to the “marriage penalty.”

“It literally takes hours and hours behind the scenes to get people, not only to open purse strings, but to work collectively to bring an event to life,” Gerber says. “I was incredibly proud of what we were able to accomplish!”

On campus, the Disability Caucus works to raise awareness about disability culture, rights and justice. In explaining her role as Vice President, Gerber states, “I am serving on the DC board because I want to help bring “disability culture” events to campus.”

“It is particularly timely now too, as the university is invested in trying to foster belonging and a sense of inclusion among students.”

Event Coverage:

NJ Spotlight News


By Donaelle Benoit