So it seems that Obama has made good on his promise to defend the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender citizens. First by the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and now by refusing to defend the “Defense of Marriage Act” as Federal Law, and declaring a key section unconstitutional.
“After careful consideration, including review of a recommendation from me, the President of the United States has made the determination that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), 1 U.S.C. § 7, i as applied to same-sex couples who are legally married under state law, violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment.”
The best part of the Administration’s argument against Section 3 of DOMA’s constitutionality is that they can demonstrate that GLBT citizens are a protected class under the “Equal Protection Clause.” Despite the fact that the “political process is not closed entirely to gay and lesbian people” the courts have judged ”political powerlessness” based upon the class of people having been subject to “heightened scrutiny.” To prove this “heightened scrutiny” – the Justice Department is using the Congressional record from the dates on which the passage of DOMA is being argued:
“The record contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships – precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.vii See Cleburne, 473 U.S. at 448″ (Holder’s Letter to Boehner)
Holder has given the Speaker until March 11th, only two weeks to act and respond. All this in the middle of a major budget debate, with the possibility of a government shutdown. Speaker Boehner & the House GOP Majority is not too pleased with this, as noted in this statement:
“While Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, the President will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation.” – Office of Speaker Boehner
To which I reply: “what jobs?!” – the last month the GOP has been cutting funding to vital services that aid women and families, while simultaneously cutting 800,000 federal jobs. The Republicans have used “controversial issues” like “gay marriage” and “abortion” to win multiple elections and ballot initiatives across the country for the past 20-30 years. Stop being a hypocrite and take it like a man (or maybe you should just cry, like you usually do).
“So what you’re voting here isn’t to change us. It’s not to change our families. It’s to change how the law views us, how the law treats us. . .You are voting for the first time in the history of our state to codifiy discrimination into our Constitution. . . . So will this vote effect my family – will it effect yours?” – Zach Wahls
I first watched and shared this YouTube video on February 1st. Now it appears that over 1 Million people have had the opportunity to hear 19 year old Zach Wahls of Iowa speak on behalf of his family and in defense of equal marriage/civil unions, which the Iowa State Legislature is voting to make illegal.** In his words, “Our family really isn’t so different than any other Iowa family . . . we’ve had our struggles, but we are Iowans, we don’t expect anyone to to solve our problems for us we’ll fight our own battles – we just hope for equal and fair treatment from our government.”
When I first heard Zach’s speech, I was immediately taken aback by how articulate and moving his words were. He made the kind of speech that doesn’t attack or defend, but is simply truth to its core. He even calls out the Republican Chairman (my favorite line of the whole speech):
“I scored in the 99 percentile on the ACT, I am actually an Eagle Scout, I own and operate my own small business. If I was your son Mr. Chairman I believe I’d make you very proud. I’m not really so different from any of your children, my family really isn’t so different from yours. After all your family doesn’t derive its sense of worth from being told by the state, ‘you’re married congratulations.’ No the sense of family comes from the commitment we make to each other to work through the hard times so we can enjoy the good ones. It comes from the love that binds us, thats what makes a family.”
Zach, you are not a leader in the making — you are a leader today. Millenials & GenY are unique in that we were brought up in a truly integrated society where diversity of race and sexual orientation are commonplace and socio-economic status is a greater concern. Young people like Barbara Bush and Meagan McCain are making waves in the Republican Party by standing up in favor of same-sex marriage, but we need more young people in decision making positions to really make waves. You are a rational and true voice that Iowan’s and this country need. I don’t care if you are a Democrat, Republican or Independent – you should run for elected office. We need more public servants, like you, who have integrity, are genuine and speak out in support equal treatment of all citizens.
**House Joint Resolution 6 would not only make same-sex marriage illegal, but also deny state recognition to civil unions and domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. Lawmakers voted 62 to 37 in favor of the resolution, which now heads to the Senate, where Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said he will block a vote.
There is no greater roadblock to marriage equality than the Defense of Marriage Act. Passed in 1996, before any state recognized the right to marriage equality, DOMA does not recognize same-sex marriage on the National level, while allowing states to determine their ownacceptance of same-sex marriages performed in states that recognize this right.
Ann Belser of the Pittsburgh Gazette perfectly outlines the confusion and inconsistency of DOMA, “. . . a couple can get married in Massachusetts, drive to New York where they can’t get married but where the marriage is recognized, then pass through New Jersey where they will be considered ‘civilly united,’ before they hit Pennsylvania where the marriage doesn’t exist at all.”
When a couple gets married and commits to a life together it doesn’t usually include a geographical limitation to where you can or cannot plan your future. What about the individual in a same-sex marriage that gets a job offer in Virginia, where they have a Constitutional Amendment against same-sex marriage? Should “Joe GLBT” not take the job if it means that his legal union would no longer be recognized? DOMA creates extreme limits on an individual’s freedoms to simply work and live.
And what of those relationships that don’t work out? The U.S. has one of the highest divorce rates in the world with 3.4 marriages out of 1,000 ending in divorce according to the CDC. With same-sex couples now getting married in greater numbers, it can be expected that some of these will unfortunately not work out. Thomas W. Ude, Jr., a senior attorney for the Lambda Legal Defense Fund points out that to get a divorce, a member of that couple must be a resident of the state where the marriage is recognized. So if “Joe GLBT” took the job in Virginia and they both moved to Virginia, not only would their marriage not be recognized, but they wouldn’t have the right to suspend their marriage where it is legally documented.
Crossing a border should not limit a person’s basic legal rights to love, work and live.
You said, “I do” to the words “Do you take ________ to be your lawfully wedded husband/wife.” For many couples simply moving to a state that recognizes same-sex marriage would allow these words to change your life for the better. That marriage certificate gives you the legal rights afforded to any married couple within your state, and even the few other states that also recognize your union, but what if the person you love isn’t from the United States? For many individuals and couples, the road to U.S. citizenship is not easy. Having worked on asylum, residency andcitizenship cases as a paralegal I can tell you it is a long and arduous process for all involved.
For heterosexual couples, marriage to a U.S. citizen gives a non-citizen the ability to apply for and become a citizen, but same-sex unions are not recognized nationally thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act. So that means that even if your marriage is legally recognized within your state, you are prohibited from receiving the Federally accepted legal benefits of marriage – aka. citizenship. Same-sex couples that include a foreign national can’t even enter the immigration process through marriage and have an even larger battle ahead.
Blogger Keith Berner recently, spoke about this issue on Left-Hand View, a local DC regional Blog. His friends, David & Sam struggle with this predicament everyday, since Sam is a Korean National who has been living in the U.S. for years on both student and work visas. For now, he can remain the country with David, but if he loses his job he will need to leave his love or risk deportation.
An acquaintance of mine has already had to make the incredibly hard decision of remaining in the U.S. or leaving to be with his husband. Originally from Colorado, he has been living in Belgium with his husband for the past 3 years where same-sex marriage is legal. He would love to return to the States, but he knows that his husband would not legally be allowed to return with him. Their marriage, while recognized in the many countries in Europe still won’t be accepted in the United States.
No couple should be placed in this difficult position. Love should not be limited.