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Thursday, September 28, 2023

Life + Arts

OUT AND ABOUT: Same-sex unions hindered by law

In 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act with an overwhelming majority in both houses.

Since then, our nation’s wide support for the law has largely evaporated, and even Bob Barr, the former Republican congressman who wrote the bill, now decries it.

‘It provides the federal government with a club, to club down the rights of American citizens’ Barr said in a 2008 speech.

Originally, the law was designed to quarantine same-sex marriage, in the event that a state should legalize it, by denying same-sex marriage the protection of the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, which says that a state must recognize legislative acts, public records, and judicial decisions of the other states.’ The DOMA also defined marriage as an act between one man and one woman on the federal level for the first time in our nation’s history. ‘

Supporters have often stated that the DOMA in no way limits a state’s ability to legalize same-sex marriage, but that it simply prevents other states from being forced to do so.’ While this looks benign on paper, the true implications of the Defense of Marriage Act are far more malignant. ‘

It is true that states are allowed to legalize same-sex marriage. But because the DOMA defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, even if two men were to be wed in a state like Vermont, the federal government wouldn’t recognize their union. That couple would still be denied the 1,138 different rights and benefits offered by the federal government to heterosexual couples. ‘

‘This hurtful and discriminatory law denies millions of Americans federal recognition of marriage and the critical rights and benefits that come with it ‘- Social Security, survivors’ benefits, equal treatment under U.S. immigration laws, the right to take leave to care for a spouse, and more,’ Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese said.’ ‘It is more important than ever to push for repeal of DOMA.’

Despite the DOMA’s discriminatory nature, it has survived for 13 years. Supporters of the repeal, such as U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., doubt that bills such as the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the DOMA, will get very far, because they would allow same-sex couples to take their federal benefits across state lines. ‘

‘Any repeal effort will probably fail even though Democrats have the votes,’ political science junior and LGBT activist Christopher Busby said. ‘

One of the barriers of passing such an ambitious piece of human rights legislation is the Senate, where conservative minorities are allowed to hold the legislative process essentially hostage.

As it stands, there are six states where same-sex marriage is legal, versus 28 states where it is explicitly illegal, and 12 states where recognition of gay marriage is banned. One of the six states, Maine, has an upcoming referendum identical to California’s infamous Proposition 8 in the works.’

Every year, vast sums of labor and capital are expended on the fight for and against gay marriage. ‘

‘I feel like there are other things we should be focusing on,’ said business major Torie Sanders. ‘

In a time where fear mongering and short-term political victories are seen as more beneficial than lasting social reform and nation building, divisive issues such as marriage rights will continue to be dragged out onto the national stage until someone is finally able to take a firm hold on the issue ‘- perhaps some sort of advocate with a fierce disposition?

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