Thursday, July 8, 2010

Equal Protection!

(Agence Free Press)

Massachusetts Judge Joseph L. Tauro has ruled that the 1996 federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman is unconstitutional because it violates equal protection rights and violates the rights of states to make their own marriage legislation. This ruling leads the way for same sex marriage partners to claim all the same spousal benefits and protection as opposite sex marriage partners. Federal attorneys were already fast at work on examining appellate options.

Massachusetts has more than 15,000 same sex marriages on record since 2004 but currently same sex partners are not entitled to their spouse's federal benefits such as Social Security. From his written opinion in the case of Martha Coakley, State Attorney General, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts vs. the United States Department of Health and Human Services, in the matter of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996:

“This court has determined that it is clearly within the authority of the Commonwealth to recognize same-sex marriages among its residents, and to afford those individuals in same-sex marriages any benefits, rights, and privileges to which they are entitled by virtue of their marital status,” Judge Tauro wrote. “The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state.”

A separate case prosecuted on behalf of the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders was joined in the opinion on the basis of Equal Protection.

Constitutional scholars, even those supporting Gay Marriage, are divided on whether Tauro's opinion will stand in federal appellate court because it neglects a slew of instances in which the federal government does make determinations in marital situations that supersede state's rights, federal income tax being just one case. No matter, the voice of reason on the issue is growing ever louder. And if DOMA falls, so too, ultimately will limitations on gay couples adopting, hopefully.

Personally, I'm waiting for Ned and Charles's wedding. After forty years together, I think they really deserve every benefit to which they would be entitled if they were heterosexual partnersAnd you know what- I bet the IRS would go after a same sex marriage partner for money, now wouldn't they?

Close your eyes and imagine that the person you loved most in the world couldn't benefit from your social security if you died, or couldn't help make health care decisions for you, or adopt and care for your child if you fell ill or were mentally incapacitated. Then imagine that they couldn't do those things only because their genitals were the same as yours. 

I'm just not getting how that's constitutional either, Judge Tauro. So... thanks for stepping up.

© Bright Nepenthe, 2010

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