Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The US Supreme Court Strikes Down Defense of Marriage Act

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Edie Windsor

After months of deliberation, the US Supreme Court justices have finally passed their judgement in favor of all legally married gays and lesbians in the various US states where gay marriage is legal, including here in Washington State. The decision says that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional for denying federal benefits to married gays and lesbians.

Some people are already going off in religious rants against the ruling of the court, saying it condones gays and will lead to more states approving gay marriage. And what is so bad in that? I want to look at this from a human and personal angle. Often I hear, I am not homophobic, I have gay friends!

OK, consider that your gay friend wants to get married, why can't she? Consider that your married gay friend does not have all the rights you have as a married person, is that fair? Consider that Edie Windsor is your gay friend, how would you rule in this her case? Do I hear you ask who she is?

83-year-old Edie Windsor, a lesbian, was engaged to her wife, Thea, for more than 40 years, waiting for the chance to legally wed, that never came in their state. In 2007, as Thea’s multiple sclerosis worsened, the couple decided to wait no more to make it official. They were married that same year in Canada.

When Thea died in 2009, Edie was forced to pay more than $600,000 in state and federal estate taxes, because the government did not recognize her marriage as valid. If Thea had been a man, Edie would not have had to pay those taxes. So she took the United States to Court and finally the case came to the Supreme Court this year. You can read more about Edie and her case HERE.

At this point, I am glad Edie Windsor got a favorable ruling.

On a national scale however, I know the after shock and tremors of the judgement will be felt for months and years to come. According to USAToday;

The decision gives the high court's blessing, at least in part, to a gay-marriage movement that has gained momentum in the past decade and now stands on the threshold of full equality. The ruling represents a major step forward for marriage equality and a setback for defenders of traditional marriage between only men and women. But 36 states still ban same-sex marriage, and the high court's ruling doesn't affect them.

In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, said the federal law unconstitutionally denied equal treatment to gay and lesbian couples. "DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled of recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty," Kennedy wrote.

"The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment," Kennedy wrote.

But Kennedy was careful to say that the court's conclusion about the Defense of Marriage Act was "confined to those lawful marriages" performed in states that already recognize same-sex marriage.

Kennedy was joined by the court's four more liberal justices. The court's conservative justices dissented.

Justice Antonin Scalia, in a scathing dissent, said the court's decision was "jaw-dropping," and predicted that it could help clear the path for same-sex marriage nationwide. "By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition," he wrote.

The decision was greeted with celebration among gay rights advocates and dread by religious and social conservatives. It also created an instant celebrity in 83-year-old Edie Windsor, the lesbian widow who challenged the law based on a six-figure estate tax bill that a heterosexual spouse would not have received.

The Defense of Marriage Act has two main sections, only one of which — defining marriage in federal laws as between a man and a woman — was contested. Because of it, benefits and programs enjoyed by opposite-sex couples aren't available to gays and lesbians under federal employment, health, tax and other laws. The other provision shields states from having to recognize gay marriages from other states.

Let the debates continue, I say. We all stand to learn and benefit from such open and frank discussions.






8 comments:

  1. Myne, I want to say I'm disappointed in you, but it's the supreme court that's to blame. I am very disappointed in the US today and I may begin to make plans to return to Nigeria after this. All freedom should have boundaries as the bible directed or we're on the broad path to hell.

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    1. We're a very funny society of hypocrites.

      According to your Bible, sleeping with another man as you would with a woman carries the death penalty (nothing about woman-on-woman sex). Guess what? Having sex with your neighbour's wife, cursing your father or mother, being a rape victim, or lying about being a virgin also carry the same penalty.

      Why aren't those in the law? The bible didn't call any of them a lesser or greater crime, so why do we turn a blind eye to adultery, but not homosexuality? Why don't we stone people who've obviously had sex before but have the temerity to wear white for their weddings? Or women who suffered rape within a city but couldn't cry out because you know, having a knife held to their throat prevented them from doing so?

      Why do we refuse to live and let live?

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  2. @Anonymous, we can start a fundraiser to buy your one-way ticket back to Nigeria.

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  3. I am a lawyer in the US and a lot of my colleagues are very happy and jubilating about this ruling. I don't agree with them but dare not speak out. They say it is freedom and equality for the gays, what of us the conservative christians? We are virtually gagged!

    What is wrong is wrong, gays should not get married in the first place. All other mistakes like DOMA stem from that initial flaw made by the states that approve or legalize same sex marriage.

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  4. God arranged marriage to be a union between man and women. No Judiacial body has the right to overturn that or arrange their own definition of marriage. Not when children are to be raised in such a union. Dont take this personal Myne you are married to a man. If he said he were gay tomorrow then I take from your stance on gay marriage that you would gladly accord him his rights and let him go no? Afterall sexuality is fluid as the gay movement would have us believe. There has to be boundaries set somewhere in order for humans to remain human beings like our Creator intended. I do not support this ruling. I am disappointed that you do.

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  5. That is why there is separation of state and religion. Myne is entitled to our opinion.

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  6. I really dont understand why Christians say they are gagged...is it fairer to make the lives of others who are not like you unlivable? As long as the court is not mandating churches to wed homosexuals no problems.
    When I see cases like the one above (Eddie Windsor)I applaud this new ruling. fair is fair.

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  7. If we used sentiments to judge things, then lots of things should be allowed

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