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Bill Donius

Bill Donius

Posted: March 2, 2011 03:08 PM

In case you don't know what "DOMA" is, it is the legislation titled, "Defense of Marriage Act," enacted in 1996. DOMA enshrines discrimination against gays and lesbians by permitting states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Does DOMA matter? If you're in a heterosexual marriage, recognition of same sex marriages may not matter to you. Your marriage is recognized by the state and federal government, not to mention your family, friends and co-workers -- society in general. If you have one of these, you are entitled the automatic rights and privileges that go along with a civil marriage. i.e. if your spouse dies, you collect the benefits, you get the tax breaks, the hospital visitation rights and a myriad of other benefits conveyed by law. No problems, no questions asked.

When does DOMA matter? When you are in a same-sex marriage, DOMA matters. When two people are in love, share a commitment, and wish to take that next step DOMA matters... a lot. If your home state does not recognize your marriage and marital rights, same sex couples must make a choice no heterosexual couple need make. Must same-sex married couples move out of their home state, assuming their home state does not recognize their marriage? What if it was your marriage, same-sex or not? Should you and your spouse have to make the choice to move away from family, friends and job? Pack up for Massachusetts or Idaho to protect your marital rights -- you know, the over 1,100 rights and benefits currently enjoyed by heterosexual couples in all 50 states?

It's unfair and unjust to force any married couple to make this choice or suffer the consequences. The Edie Windsor case before the federal court has brought this issue to the fore. An American same-sex couple, together for four decades, married in Canada, were treated as strangers by being charged estate taxes that a heterosexual couple under identical facts and circumstances, would not be forced to pay. Basing their conclusion on this and many other similar cases, the Obama administration concluded last week that disparate treatment of same-sex marriages is unconstitutional. Hurrah!

What are the implications for future discrimination against gays and lesbians? Perhaps they will be short lived? Let's stop defending civil marriage by defining its parameters in a discriminatory manner. Let's start embracing it for what it is, a governmental -- not religious -- right that tax paying and consenting adult citizens can exercise.

 

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