In 1996, the 104th Congress enacted the Defense of Marriage Act, a misnamed legislative boondoggle which enshrined discrimination into federal law. Now, Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY), along with 76 House sponsors, will introduce legislation to overturn that law. Whether it passes in the 111th Congress or in a future Congress is uncertain. What is certain is that this effort -- to strike state-sanctioned discrimination from the federal code -- is the right thing to do.
Many of us, no matter our sexual orientation, believe that marriage should be a legal commitment between two adults. The notion that marriage is threatened by legally sanctioned relationships because of sexual orientation is patently absurd. Three important points need to be made. First, marriages (and weddings) are not purely religious events and anyone who thinks they are has never been to Las Vegas. Second, marriage confers many legal rights (health benefits, taxes, property rights, parental rights, inheritance, etc.) which are denied to those who are not permitted to marry. Third, and finally, it is inherently discriminatory that couples who marry in Iowa are treated as if they are not married when visiting the state of Utah, or some other state where such discrimination is legal.
This is the United States of America.
Repeal of DOMA is a crucial first step to eliminating discrimination and ensuring marriage equality. It has the full support of Americans for Democratic Action, the nation's historic advocacy group opposing discrimination and supporting full economic and social justice. And it's time other allied organizations, anyone who calls themselves a progressive -- straight or gay -- to come out of the closet and support marriage equality.
In 1963, it was one of the founders of ADA, Walter Reuther, who led the UAW into the civil rights movement. He actually spoke at the historic march where Dr. King gave the "I have a dream speech." While his words did not echo through history in the same way, his actions were significant in helping to change America. It showed the world the Civil Rights Movement was indeed a movement with a broad coalition of supporters sharing one common goal. It was necessary to accomplish real and lasting change. Repeal of DOMA fits into that same historic narrative; the LGBT community shouldn't have to fight this battle alone.