A Federal Appeals Court in Boston issued a ruling this morning that the Defense of Marriage Act denies gay couples their Constitutional rights to the same federal benefits straight couples enjoy.
In all, straight couples enjoy more than 1,000 rights and benefits that are denied to gay and lesbian couples, even in states where such marriages are legal.
The Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, was passed by Congress in 1996 when it looked like Hawaii was about to legalize gay marriage. Of course, since then a couple dozen states have followed suit and either passed laws or amended their constitutions to outlaw gay marriage. Eight states have legalized it: Massachusetts, in 2006, followed by Connecticut, New York, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, Washington state and the District of Columbia. Maryland and Washington’s laws aren’t enacted yet and still could face popular votes.
In those states that have legalized marriage between any two consenting adults, gay couples are being denied the same federal benefits straight married couples enjoy. That, the appeals court said, is unconstitutional.
The decision won’t go into effect until the US Supreme Court rules on the case, which I find worrisome, considering the current domination of the court by conservative activists.
Part of the problem here is that anti-gay religious people have been able to mobilize the popular vote better than we who support the right of all consenting adults to make the legal contract we know as marriage.
I’ve known all along that the courts and/or Congress are going to have to step in and assert the rights of GLBT people to marry; states aren’t known for expanding the rights of people on their own. Look at the history of the Civil Rights Movement or that of the Women Suffrage Movement. The majority of people seem to want to preserve their own rights rather than extend equal rights to a minority.
When I ask people who oppose same-sex marriage why they think gays should be denied the same rights they enjoy, they invariably quote religion. But if it’s a religious issue, why is it codified into the laws of a nation where the church is supposed to be separate from the state?
They usually either don’t answer or they use the slippery-slope argument. You know, the one: “If we do this, the next thing you know, people will want to marry their dogs.”
But dogs aren’t consenting adults, nor are farm animals, birds, insects — or children. So don’t start with the pedophilia argument either.
If you have a religious objection to gays being married, then you don’t have to allow them to be married in your church. And you don’t have to marry someone of your same gender.
But you can’t deny people their rights because your religion says they’re sinners.
I’ve had this discussion with plenty of “love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin” types. My argument is that people are born to be who they are.
How can you separate someone from the person they were born to be?
I think we’re all on a continuum — we all have tendencies within us. I’m straight. Some people are bisexual; others are gay or lesbian. It’s how we’re meant to be, and we all deserve the same right to choose our life partners from among consenting adults.
Leslie Boyd, a former newspaper reporter, is president of the health care advocacy nonprofit, WNC Health Advocates, founded in memory of her son, who died in 2008 because he couldn't access health care. E-mail her at leslie at lettersfromtheleft dot com or follow her on Twitter @leftyletters1, visit Letters from the Left on Facebook. For more information about WNC Health Advocates or to read Boyd's health care blog, visit wncha.org.