Is The Defense of Marriage Act Dying?
Since its passing in 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been a thorn in the side of gays and lesbians who have made the decision to commit their relationships in states that legally allow same-sex marriages. Under the controversial law, the Federal government has been barred from recognizing these marriages, leaving it up to the states to determine who is actually married, and how they ought to be treated.
Since then, states that still define marriage as between a man and a woman can (and have) refused to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. This had led to the denial of basic health and retirement benefits to married gays and lesbians, among a variety of other rights straight couples who get married in other states take for granted.
Since then, the administration of President Barack Obama has stated openly that they will no longer provide resources or manpower to uphold the law, which they see as unconstitutional. Public opinion is continuing a steady rise in support of equal marriage rights for all, despite amendments to the constitutions of 28 states defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Since DOMA passed, six states and the District of Columbia have given marriage rights to all, regardless of gender.
It’s a bit of a mixed bag, but overall, are things looking up for gays and lesbians wanting to tie the knot of matrimony and receive federal recognition of that fact?
This morning the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing entitled “Assessing the Impact of the Defense of Marriage Act on American Families,” and lines were drawn from the start, as Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) opened with the statement that DOMA “goes well beyond the harm to a family’s dignity,” adding that the law has the proven potential to damage members of a same-sex marriage’s economic well-being and bodily health.
In an attempt to outline the damage done, Leahy called a variety of witnesses to testify, including Ron Wallen, 77, from Indio, California. Wallen told the story of how his financial life was ruined after his partner of 58 years died, and he was denied Social Security survivor’s benefits as well as his partner’s pension. Wallen’s income dropped to just $900 per month, down from the over $3,000 his household enjoyed when his partner was still alive, and may soon be homeless.Continued on the next page