The Defense of Marriage Act – the discriminatory law that’s stopped LGBT people from enjoying the same right to marry as heterosexual couples since 1996 – might soon be on its way out. On May 31, 2012, the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that DOMA is unconstitutional. Even better? Out of the three judges who ruled, two were Republican and one was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan.
All three judges agreed that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional because it does not allow LGBT couples to enjoy the same rights and privileges that are automatically granted to straight couples. However, the judges did not remark on some of the more controversial aspects of DOMA – namely that states without gay marriage can’t be forced to recognize legal gay marriages from states that approve it.
The History of DOMA
The Defense of Marriage Act went into effect in 1996 during the Clinton administration.. Since Congress passed DOMA, several states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, and both Washington D.C. and Washington state have approved gay marriage on a state-by-state basis. It remains illegal in the remaining states.
“It’s like legal hopscotch,” a friend of mine once told me. He lives in Boston with his legal husband and when they travel across state lines or to visit family in Florida, his legal rights as a spouse – the rights that married heterosexual couples enjoy on a daily basis without thought or question – simply evaporate. They just don’t exist anymore. With one flight or car trip, the legal marital bonds between gay or lesbian couples become invisible, leaving them open to a host of legal and social discrimination.
It’s Time for Marriage
And this is America, the land of the free, but since 1996, we haven’t been so free. At least this ruling shows that we’re moving in the right direction. On May 9, 2012, President Obama declared that same sex couples should be allowed to marry. There’s still a long way to go before marriage equality is the law of the land. This ruling will next go to the Supreme Court, but as political momentum grows, I believe it will become harder and harder for the United States to uphold discrimination against the tide of change. Isn’t that what America is all about?