DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional
Married gay couples face a fiscal double standard in America: they pay more taxes than married straight couples and oftentimes a survivor only gets a portion of pension benefits when their partner dies (and only if listed as a beneficiary) due to fees and taxes, whereas a married straight survivor gets 100% of benefits. In 2009 GLAD, a Gay and Lesbian advocacy organization, challenged DOMA (the so-called Defense of Marriage Act) on behalf of eight married couples and pubished these findings:
Several of the plaintiffs seek spousal protections afforded by the Social Security program. Three widowers, already distressed by the death of their spouses, seek the lump-sum death benefit normally available upon the death of a spouse to help pay for funeral costs. One of the widowers also seeks the survivor benefit, namely to substitute his deceased spouse’s higher benefit for his own lower benefit, as is standard for spouses. Another retiree seeks to increase her monthly payment to the standard one-half of her higher-earning spouse’s payment, as other spouses are entitled to do. Each of these plaintiffs has been denied Social Security benefits based on DOMA Section 3.
But now it looks like gay couples are a step closer to being able to enjoy a full citizenship and their constitutional right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Defense of Marriage Act, a faith-based separate-and-unequal legal scheme designed to remind gay and lesbian families of their place, has been ruled unconstitutional and may soon be abolished.
“Judge Claudia Wilken of Oakland ruled May 24 that the law legalized bigotry by withholding more than 1,000 federal benefits — such as joint tax filing, Social Security survivor payments and immigration sponsorship — from gays and lesbians legally married under state law.
Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco also declared DoMA unconstitutional and ordered the government to provide family insurance coverage to the wife of a lesbian court employee. White’s ruling has been appealed to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear the case in September.
Polls also indicate a strong support for marriage equality. Support for gay marriage has grown even among right-wing politicians. Dick Cheney, whose lesbian daughter recently gave him a grandchild, now supports marriage equality and back in February, Republican Representative Maureen Walsh choked up while giving testimony as a mother of a lesbian who supports marriage equality.
Last year, even Jim Daly, president of the right-wing group Focus on the Family, decided to start focusing on his own family and told the Evangelical World magazine in its June issue: “We’ve Probably Lost” on Gay Marriage:
What about same-sex marriage? We’re losing on that one, especially among the 20- and 30-somethings: 65 to 70 percent of them favor same-sex marriage. I don’t know if that’s going to change with a little more age—demographers would say probably not. We’ve probably lost that. I don’t want to be extremist here, but I think we need to start calculating where we are in the culture.
Gay marriage is legal in several countries in Europe, as well as Argentina, South Africa, and several states in Brazil and Mexico. In the US, it was first made legal in Massachusetts. USAToday article The Sky Didn’t Fall in Massachusetts, shares the following testimony on the repercussions of gay marriage:
While the outside world debates how to treat its gay couples, Massachusetts sees that fire-and-brimstone predictions didn’t come true.
Religious institutions haven’t been forced to bless the civil marriage of any gay couple, though many have done so voluntarily…
Julie and Hillary Goodridge, one of seven couples who sued to marry, are awed by how quickly obstacles can vanish for couples with marriage’s protections.
Exhibit A: The night-and-day difference in how they were treated during two medical emergencies. Nine years ago, moments after Julie gave birth to their daughter, Hillary rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit. Once Hillary realized baby Annie was fine, despite having inhaled fluid, she circled back to reassure Julie.
A nurse sternly blocked her way: “Immediate family only.” When Hillary, in tears, tried to return to her newborn, she met with the same indignity.
The couple wed last May 17. Soon afterward, Hillary split her lip trying to free Annie’s toy parachute from a tree. A hospital nurse asked Hillary whether she lived with anyone. “I said, ‘Yes, I live with my spouse and daughter.’ He said, ‘Is he with you?’ And I said, ‘She is here, in the waiting room with our daughter.’ He was so sweet, and said, ‘Of course. Would you like your family with you?’ “
After Massachusetts, seven other states and DC legalized gay marriage, and two states are in the process of following suit. The struggle for marriage equality was perhaps most controversial in California, where a ban on gay marriage was in place temporarily.
The fact that the Prop 8 initiative was funded mainly by Mormons, who make up less than 2% of the population in California, inspired the film 8: The Mormon Proposition. The documentary raised questions about LDS Church tax exempt 501(c)3 status, which requires non-profit agencies to not be involved in politics.
The film also helped to shed light on the hypocrisy of the religious right, and in particular of the Mormon faith, which from the onset showed the fingerprints of a sexual predator. It was founded by Joseph Smith, who had over 30 wives, some of whom were as young as 14 while others were already married to Joseph’s followers, and it promises an afterlife where the faithful will be able to enjoy perpetual sexual bliss on their own planets with multiple wives.
In his ruling against Prop 8, Judge Vaughn Walker stated:
Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
… Plaintiffs have demonstrated by overwhelming evidence that Proposition 8 violates their due process and equal protection rights and that they will continue to suffer these constitutional violations until state officials cease enforcement of Proposition 8. California is able to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, as it has already issued 18,000 marriage licenses to same sex couples and has not suffered any demonstrated harm as a result …
Because Proposition 8 is unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, the court orders entry of judgment permanently … prohibiting the official defendants [state of California] from applying or enforcing Proposition 8…