Ultimately it's not going to matter which states write discrimination against law-abiding, taxpaying Gay couples into their constitutions, nor will it matter which states grant marriage equality to those same couples, because it is the FEDERAL government that bestows most of the legal benefits, protections, and responsibilities that married couples receive. This is an issue that the Supreme Court of the United States will eventually have to tackle, and I'm confident that they will decided that there is no Constitutional justification for denying Gay couples the same legal benefits that Straight couples have always taken for granted.
The main sticking point is the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which was signed, to his eternal shame, by President Bill Clinton. DOMA is transparently unconstitutional, since it establishes differing legal standards for Gay and Straight couples in the United States. It would be preferable if Congress would simply repeal DOMA, but as cowardly as most of our elected officials seem to be, it will probably be up to the Supreme Court to declare DOMA unconstitutional.
WHY is DOMA unconstitutional? Consider: A Straight couple legally married in Iowa is automatically entitled to 1,138 legal benefits, protections, and responsibilities according to the Government Accounting Office (GAO). Many of those benefits have to do with tax law, Social Security, inheritance rights, child custody, and so on. But because of DOMA, a Gay couple that is legally married in Iowa is still unrecognized by the federal government for those benefits.
Consider, also, the "Full Faith & Credit" clause of the Constitution. Because of this, any Straight couple can fly off to Las Vegas for drunken weekend, get married by an Elvis impersonator, and that marriage is automatically honored in all 50 states, and at all levels of government. But thanks to DOMA, a Gay couple that is legally married in Iowa becomes UN-married if they relocate south to Missouri.
The ONLY real difference between a married Gay couple and a married Straight couple is the gender of the two people who have made the commitment. It has nothing to do with procreation, since couples do not need a marriage license to make babies, nor is the ability or even desire to make babies a prerequisite for obtaining a marriage license. So there is really no constitutional justification for denying law-abiding, taxpaying Gay couples the same legal benefits, protections, and responsibilities that married Straight couples have always taken for granted. This cannot be accomplished in a piecemeal, state-by-state fashion; it is the FEDERAL government which, through its own actions, has made this a federal issue.
This is why I encourage all Gay couples, especially those who have been legally married in states like Iowa and Massachusetts, to file suit to have DOMA overturned. Gay Americans have had it up to HERE with being treated like second-class citizens.
Indy Week • 302 E. Pettigrew St., Suite 300, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
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