Last week marked an important moment in the ongoing battle for marriage equality. On March 26th, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for the legal challenge to Proposition 8 and then the following day considered the constitutionality of the federal government’s ban on same-sex marriage, Defense of Marriage Act. Interestingly enough, DOMA was signed in 1996 by President Clinton, who now believes it should be overturned. Furthermore, the Obama administration has determined DOMA’s denial of all federal benefits for same-sex marriages unconstitutional, though it continues to enforce the law.
As a member of the LGBT community and a proponent for gay rights, this shift in judgment gives me a sense hope. During the oral arguments, Roberta Kaplan, who represented the plaintiff Edith Windsor, argued that Congress passed DOMA, because there was, “an incorrect understanding that gay couples were fundamentally different than straight couples… We all can understand that people can move on this, and now understand that there is no such distinction.” Kaplan’s statement speaks obvious truths that I want to believe this new generation can agree upon and adopt as the common attitude. Motivated by moral disapproval of homosexuality prevalent at the time, it is clear now that DOMA is blatant attack on human rights. Why should same-sex couples be disregarded in the eyes of the government and be treated as second-class citizens? Preserving and upholding this inherently unjust law would be a regressive move for a country built upon the foundations of freedom.
As reported by the Huffington Post, Justice Kennedy displayed hostility toward DOMA, raising the question of “whether or not the federal government under our federalism scheme has the authority to regulate marriage.” I agree with this statement and believe that the right to marry and the right to access the federal benefits that come with marriage should not be in the hands of the government. It is unfortunate that given the current political landscape, same-sex marriage is at the mercy of the law. However, I am thankful that these thoughtfully reflective questions are being heard as they are pushing the fight for marriage equality in the right direction.
Though a decision for these cases will not be made until June, I see these events as progress. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed 58% of respondents in support of gay marriage, while 36% opposed it. That is nearly the opposite of the public opinion on gay marriage in 2003 when ABC/Post polling showed 37% support and 55% opposition. I am hopeful that this shift in public opinion will be reflected in our future laws.