Gay Couples Receive Federal Equal Protection
by Jacob Aronoff on Friday, February 21st, 2014
On February 10, 2014, the Justice Department officially recognized same-sex marriages “as broadly as possible,” a motion that included the 34 states that do not give equal rights to these marriages.
Before this monumental decision was made, same-sex couples that were married in a state with legal gay marriage were not recognized the same way in states that did not. The couples were also not allowed bankruptcy cases, prison visitation, survivor rights for public servants, and many more rights that heterosexual marriages enjoyed.
The current states that allow gay marriage are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. On the opposite side of the spectrum, states such as Utah, Virginia, and Oklahoma have tried to ban same-sex couples from marriage licenses. All three have been ruled unconstitutional by federal judges.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed in 1996, is the biggest blockade to achieving marriage equality. This bill gives individual states the right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. DOMA was deemed unconstitutional only in June 2013, in United States vs. Windsor. This ruling by the Supreme Court paved the way for the Justice Department to pass the recent marriage equality bill.
One of the largest opposition groups is the National Organization for Marriage, which has spent $250,000 to defeat Republican senators who have voted for same-sex marriage rights, among its many campaigns against marriage equality. On the other hand, supporters of marriage rights include President Barack Obama, the first sitting president to declare support for equality of marriages, and the Human Rights Campaign.
Skills Center teacher Katie Collins, who married her wife in October, was excited to hear the Justice Court’s decision but says that the law should have always ruled this way. “Part of me is hesitant to get super excited,” Ms. Collins said, wishing that decisions like these were not so special. When DOMA was deemed unconstitutional in June, Ms. Collins was ecstatic. She said that it was “so much more than a ruling; it was an acceptance from my country.”
On the topic of last Monday’s bill, Ms. Collins said, “I’m shocked [at] the idea that if a same-sex partner is in prison… their life partner can’t see them. [It] just blows my mind.” Ms. Collins believes that this bill is a start to a possibly bright future, but that there is still a long way to go. She said she wants to see “ultimately that marriage is marriage no matter what state you live in and who you’re married to.”
An anonymous Class III student also commented that the bill “is still not solving a problem, but it’s a step in the right direction. People still face harsh laws in other states.” She wants us not to turn a blind eye to these communities. “It’s just not okay that certain people can’t be [themselves] in certain places.”
Ms. Collins said, “As a gay adult… [living] in a community that is accepting and in a country that is accepting of my rights… is amazing. [However,] just because the law says it’s okay, that doesn’t mean there’s no struggle being gay. I hope for a world where I’m not seen as different.”
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