Last week's events have everyone in a flurry amongst celebrations and momentous decisions being made. The repeal of DOMA, immigration reform, the NSA scandal and Vladimir Putin stealing a Super Bowl ring from Robert Kraft have all been topics circulating in the news recently, making it difficult to focus on a single one's cause and effect.
The monumental ruling of the Supreme Court last Wednesday was a huge step forward in the movement of gay rights, but the fight is not over yet. It is just one step on a long road to equal rights. Here is the break down of everything you need to know about DOMA.
What is DOMA?
DOMA is short for Defense of Marriage Act. It was passed in 1996 by Congress and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It states that the federal government does not recognize same-sex marriages that are legalized by states.This means if a same-sex couple were married in a state where same sex marriage is legally recognized, they would only be recognized by the state, not the federal government. This also means that same-sex couples are denied the same taxation, Social Security, and health insurance benefits as legally recognized heterosexual couples.
What was the Supreme Court's decision?
There were actually two major rulings. The first was the repeal of section three of DOMA, stating that federal law must recognize same-sex marriages by states that have legalized them, declaring section three unconstitutional. The second was effectively allowing same-sex marriage in California by denying a request to halt the overturn of Proposition 8, a ruling that had previously banned same-sex marriage in California.
What does this mean?
Same-sex couples now hold the same rights and protection under the law as those joined in a heterosexual union. Previously denied benefits such as health insurance, retirement savings, veterans' benefits, hospital visitation rights, to name a few, will be granted to same-sex couples. All federal benefits will be granted to those married in states where same-sex marriage is recognized.
By denying a request to decide on the constitutional validity of Proposition 8 in California, its appeal was put to a halt and the ban on same-sex marriages in California was lifted. This made headlines because as the most populous state in the country, California is now the 13th state that allows same-sex marriages.
While the repeal of DOMA is cause enough to celebrate, the fight for equal rights is not over. The Supreme Court struck down DOMA and made the federal government responsible for recognizing those same-sex marriages conducted in states where it is legal. It did not declare same-sex marriage a constitutional right, nor did it require all states to recognize same-sex marriage. So while same-sex couples' marriages are recognized by 13 states and the federal government, there are still 37 states where their marriages are not legally recognized. Those states are not required to lift a ban on same-sex marriage.
Under current law, marriage is an issue of state law and there is no federal system for deciding the marriage laws of individual states. Those in favor of gay rights propose a common solution: making same-sex marriages conducted in one state legal and recognized in all states.
With the repeal of DOMA, there is no doubt that we are working towards the goal of marriage equality. There is much more to be done, but this step is a monumental moment in history.