Apr 1, 2013
The U.S. Supreme Court is deliberating on the constitutionality of a federal law that defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. This law, called the Defense of Marriage Act, was passed in 1996.
While the Supreme Court Justices pontificate, it is likely they will dodge a political bullet by referring the issue back to the states arena, where right-wing forces are making it a focus. The battle for fundamental individual rights will have to be carried out in state, after state, after state.
In the meantime, it is an ongoing outrage that gay and lesbian couples are being denied protection under the 1,000 plus different federal laws that confer legal and financial rights to opposite-sex married couples. The denial of these rights is inflicting daily harm: Couples are being denied rights to health care, inheritance protection and guardianship of children; and making medical decisions for partners in hospice. The plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, Edith Windsor, now 83, was forced to pay $360,000 in inheritance taxes when her partner Thea Spyer died, because their union of 40 years was not legally recognized.
It’s absurd that someone needs to be legally married to enjoy these rights in the first place. Millions of individuals are today in civil unions that are no less committed than legal marriages, and these couples are denied all protections under the law. So it is even more absurd that in a society that demands marriage, some people are kept from marrying the companion of their choice, whatever their sexual orientation.