In 1996, Bill Clinton enacted the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DoMA), which federally denies the recognition of legal marriages between same-sex partners. But currently, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, District of Columbia, Maryland, Washington, and Maine, recognize gay marriage, directly contradicting DoMA, and challenging its constitutionality. Since 1996, state-by-state, a social injustice is being corrected; gay people and their allies everywhere are fighting for the legalization of gay marriage, and the 1,138 rights that come with them. With the coming event of the Supreme Court’s hearing of DoMA, gay people may finally marry their partners, and claim first-class status in a country that prides itself in allowing life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
DoMA is unconstitutional in its original form. It directly violates the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the US Constitution, which states that “Full Faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.” In other words, what is legal in one state must be legal in the other states. But currently this does not apply to gay marriages. If you were married here in Boston, Massachusetts and decide to relocate to Minneapolis, Minnesota, you would be seen as two individuals. Whether you have a house with your spouse, or have lived together for 20 years, or have children together, states without marriage would see your Massachusetts marriage license as sham. The Constitution was not constructed to contradict itself, so why would this the case be for gay people?
Even if you disagree with homosexuality, you must recognize that gay people are still people. And people deserve their rights. A marriage license holds the access to those rights, approximately 1,138 rights: joint adoption and foster care, inheritance to spouses’ property, joint tax filing, right to making medical decisions, etc. Without these rights, gay couples are devalued. Essentially, they are being told they cannot sustain a marriage, or a family, or a child. Gay people, who have made a life for themselves, who wish to surround themselves with loved ones, following their peers, are forced to live with these life-changing alterations.
In Carson City, Nevada, July 20th 2012, Brittney Leon and Terri-Ann Simonelli checked into Spring Valley Hospital expecting to deliver their baby together. They had lived together for six years, and are expecting to see their child arrive that day. But when identifying themselves, the admissions officer refused Simonelli from being allowed to make medical decisions during her partner’s Leon delivery. Their document proving domestic partnership deemed useless; they would need an attorney. Simonelli, now considered an acquaintance, was left waiting outside. When she finally asked a nurse about Leon’s condition, she was told that Leon was in the recovery room. They had lost their baby.
Perhaps Simonelli’s being in the delivery room would not have changed the outcome. Perhaps nothing could have been done. But there is an unspeakable sadness in losing a child when you cannot be there, mentally, physically, or legally. With DoMA, gay people will always be considered second-class citizens. They will live their lives without recognition, and without protection. Our nation can correct this. The Supreme Court only has to see the hurt DoMA is doing to gay people everywhere.