How the Law has Been Inadequate in Ensuring Equal Rights for Same-Sex Couples: Part 2
Welcome to Part 2 of our blog on equal rights for same-sex couples. Be sure to check out Part 1and let’s pick up where we left off…
What is DOMA?
DOMA is defined as an act to define and protect the institution of marriage. DOMA became effective September 21, 1996. This act allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted under the laws of other states. In conjunction with other statues, also effectively barred same-sex couples from being seen as “spouses” for purpose of federal laws and receivingfederal marriage benefits. It wasn’t until June 26th, 2013 that Section 3 of the act was ruled unconstitutional and invalidated by the Supreme Court. DOMA being struck down in no way requires states to make same-sex marriage valid, but would now recognize same-sex marriage from the states that currently and would later make same-sex marriage legal. Same-sex marriage has been legalized and recognized in 13 states (and D.C.) and five Native American tribes, while civil unions are recognized in these 13 states (and D.C.), it is recognized in eight other states. Massachusetts recognizes civil unions and domestic partnerships as the legal equal of a marriage.
Before the historic decision to strike down DOMA, any same-sex couple whether married or unmarried, was not allowed a whole list of benefits that were provided to heterosexual couples. While still not every federal marriage benefit is offered to same-sex couples making the short falls of laws ensuring rights to same-sex couples too many to name or to count, there are many that same-sex married couples living in the same-sex marriage state or D.C. will now receive, Social Security, Tax, Veteran and Military, Federal Employment, and Immigration benefits. While this list of benefits seem to be the most important in any couples relationship, these are especially important for couples that are still not recognized. In the future when the other states make same-sex marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships legal and recognizable, everyone will receive the same benefits regardless of their orientation.
While it’s easier to discuss how the laws fall short for same-sex couples, fight and hold grudges against those that don’t support rights to all; taking a different stance to see how far we have come was the best way to go. In 1967 interracial couple marriage was legalized, in 1971 the first gay man was given a marriage of certificate and married his long time mate, however not recognized until recently. In 1996, same-sex marriage and rights were taken away by DOMA. In 2003 Massachusetts Supreme court found state law barring same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. In 2004, Massachusetts made civil marriages available instead of civil unions giving these couples the rights to state benefits. In 2008, the Connecticut Supreme Court likewise ruled that the state laws barring of same-sex civil unions were discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation, inevitably in the same year marriage certificates were issued to any couple heterosexual or homosexual. In 2009, Iowa and Vermont joined forces and ruled unanimously to allow marriage equality. Vermont became the first state through legislative action, to enact marriage equality. From 2010 to 2013 same-sex marriage has become legal in D.C., New York, Maine, Rhode Island, Maryland, Washington, Delaware, Minnesota, New Hampshire and California. While there are a few states that offer Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships, the strike down of DOMA does not necessarily make these couples “married”. A few states are automatically changing statues to register all future unions as an actual marriage and some are registering and deregistering domestic partnerships, since same-sex marriage has yet to become legal. In these states, not all federal benefits are offered, nor state benefits.
The barriers being broke down to enable same-sex couples to have the same rights and benefits as heterosexual couples are slowly working. However, there are still many more states that don’t recognize same-sex couples than those that do. While same-sex couples are becoming more socially and legally acceptable, there are still many state laws that will have to be amended and looked over making it possible for all same-sex couples to receive the benefits in the remaining states that currently don’t have any laws for marriage equality.