U.S. needs marriage equality now
Posted by Beth White, Columnist on Nov 24, 2012. Filed under Rainbow Connection.
How would the majority of Americans react if they were told by the federal government, and by 45 out of the 50 states, that they could not marry the person they love?
This horror was made real for the millions of LGBTAmericans when President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1993. Back then, it seemed that Hawaii was on the verge of legalizing gay marriage, and in turn, some politicians and their constituents wanted a national law to ensure that states against gay marriage did not have to respect same-sex marriages.
That in itself is discriminatory; imagine if a different-sex couple was married in one state and that marriage was not upheld when they moved to a different state?
DOMA does much more than this though—in defining marriage as between one man and one woman, it excludes same-sex married couples from the 1,138 federal laws that grant rights, protections and benefits to married persons. Federal exemption from inheritance tax, immigration rights and the ability to file joint tax returns are a few examples of those federal rights exclusively associated with marriage.
Since DOMA was passed, 23 states amended their constitutions to make same-sex marriage illegal. Currently, six other states maintain statutes that forbid gay marriage (as opposed to constitutional amendments). These constitutional amendments and statutes completely deny the legitimacy of same-sex couples.
Domestic partnerships are granted to same-sex couples in three states. These give couples some, but not all of the state rights granted to heterosexual couples. The civil unions provided to same-sex couples in eight states are another step in the right direction, as they guarantee equal state-level rights for homosexual and heterosexual couples. However, separate but equal is never truly equal. By giving gay marriage a different name, legislators make it seem as if the love between two individuals of the same sex is different than that between two members of the opposite sex. Gay marriage is only legal in Washington D.C. and five states.
Keep in mind that whether engaged in a domestic partnership, civil union or lucky enough to have a marriage, same-sex couples are still barred from an obscene number of federal rights that are awarded to opposite-sex couples. Also, it is incredibly belittling for two individuals who dedicate their entire lives to each other to be considered legal strangers by the federal government.
Sophomore Anna Daniel expressed how essential government reform is. “Love is an emotion all humans experience and you can’t control who you fall in love with… and when you have the basis of your entire country, the government, telling you that it’s weird or it’s not okay or controversial to have a marriage, it’s dehumanizing. Equal rights are essential to cooperation in society and lacking those rights negatively affects LGBT people on a daily basis.”
Considering the fact that all love is equal, the only difference I can see between same-sex couples and different-sex couples is how they practice intercourse. This begs the question, why has the highly discriminatory DOMA not been repealed yet?