The debate over same sex marriage is a sad example of what happens when fear and religion are mixed with the power of government. In a country that upholds separation of church and state, it should not be the
governments job to say who can marry whom.
On Thursday, the U.S. made one more step toward marriage equality when the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, a federal appeals court, ruled 2-to-1 to remove the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage, according to the New York Times.
The ruling adds one more case to the issue of same sex marriage, and should push the Supreme Court further to consider the issue at the federal level.
This latest case surrounds a New York same-sex couple who married in 2007 in Canada, according to the times. When Thea Clara Spyer died two years later, her wife, Edith Windsor, faced a $363,000 tax bill for inheritance, since the Internal Revenue Service did not recognize the two as a legally married couple. That tax would not have to be paid by a widow of a heterosexual marriage.
Signed into law in 1996 by former President Bill Clinton, DOMA clearly states the federal governments definition of marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman.
While it is legal for same-sex couples to get married in seven states, the federal government does not grant the same rights to lesbian or gay couples as for heterosexual couples. A man and a woman can legally get married, combine their income, file a joint tax return, inherit property and enjoy many other rights. But a gay or lesbian couple receives little recognition other than being able to call their marriage a civil union.
Despite circuit courts recent rulings to repeal DOMA, neither the Bush nor the Obama administrations have moved to change it.
The Supreme Court needs to soon consider the issue of same-sex marriage, and Windsors case is a prime example of how the topic can gain its attention. The Supreme Court has the power to get around DOMA legislation if it can agree that the same-sex couples involved in cases have been discriminated against. If the court agrees, then the law must be evaluated at heightened scrutiny and any law that restricts rights to those who have been discriminated against would fail to meet the equal protection clause of the constitution.
The real problem is that we are allowing the government to deny people human rights because we have let one set of personal preferences dictate how all people should live their lives. We have allowed our government to forget that all men and women are created equally and that a government should not impede on the rights and freedoms of its citizens. It is not and should never be the governments function to deny rights to one group of people that they grant to another.
Robert Scime is a senior majoring in mass communications.