Yes, DOMA Was Unconstitutional
“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment.” – Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the majority opinion.
Before I begin, let me make my position abundantly clear: I do not support gay marriage. I support the traditional union of one man and one woman and believe the power to define marriage lies solely with religious authorities. The government ought not have a say in what ‘marriage’ is.
That said, the Supreme Court made the right decision. The “Defense of Marriage Act” is blatantly unconstitutional, barring legally married, same-sex couples from the federal economic benefits they rightly deserve.
For perspective, let me explain DOMA’s contents and what effect the Court’s decision will have on the gay rights movement.
The “Defense of Marriage Act” was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. DOMA “prevented same-sex couples whose marriages were recognized by their home state from receiving the hundreds of benefits available to other married couples under federal law” (Huffington Post). In doing so, the federal government relegated legally married, same-sex couples to second-class status, barring them from receiving the same economic benefits as legally married, opposite-sex couples.
Such a law is blatantly unconstitutional. DOMA clearly violates the 14th Amendment, which states that the government cannot “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Federal law bestows a number of lucrative economic benefits upon legally married couples. Because both same-sex and opposite-sex couples can be legally married in this country, same-sex couples, as a result of the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” clause, deserve the same economic benefits bestowed upon opposite-sex couples.
I wish to remind you once again that I do not support gay marriage. However, in addition to supporting traditional marriage, I support the Constitution, and as it stands now, that document implicitly demands that same-sex couples be given the same economic benefits as opposite-sex couples. Therefore, I have no choice but to applaud the Supreme Court for making the right decision.
However, this decision, though it deserves to be lauded, is not the great “turning point” gay rights activists make it out to be. As of today, 29 states have constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, and an additional 6 states have statutory bans. Unfortunately for the gay rights movement, striking down DOMA doesn’t repeal constitutional amendments. For now, the power to define marriage lies with the states (though it shouldn’t lie with any governmental body), and therefore, neither the federal government nor the Supreme Court have the authority to interfere.
As noted, the Supreme Court made the right decision. DOMA was clearly unconstitutional and a repeal was absolutely necessary. Nevertheless, my opinion remains the same. I do not support gay marriage and never will. I’m a man of the constitution, and have yet to find a section that allows the government to define religious ceremonies. I will not budge. The Supreme Court may be right on DOMA, but it better leave the marriage alone.