Monday, March 9, 2009

Marriage Equality Updates

1. Gill et al. v. Office of Personnel Management et al.

Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) has filed a lawsuit challenging the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The entire complaint can be found here (PDF). I would encourage people to read it as it spells out the real, tangible harms that same-sex couples experience due to DOMA. DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing legal state-licensed marriages between two people of the same sex. Thus, from a practical standpoint, as GLAD explains:

"The law in question, the 'Defense of Marriage Act' deprives families of federally-created economic safety nets, to the detriment of those couples and their children or other dependents. It creates a system of first and second class marriages, where the former receive all federal legal protections, and the latter are denied them, even while taking on the responsibilities of legal marriage."

From a legal standpoint, multiple criticisms have been raised with respect to DOMA. For one, many believe that it violates the equal protection guarantees in the US Constitution. GLAD, for instance, argues that DOMA creates two classes of married couples, treats them differently, and that there is no "adequate justification" for doing so.

Two, and this is a point I would love to see conservatives who usually favor a weak federal government and strong states' rights more often address, it violates principles of federalism with respect to marriage. This Slate article does a nice job of explaining the state sovereignty issue with respect to DOMA. Traditionally, the regulation of marriage has been a matter decided by individual states. So, when a state recognizes a marriage as valid, the federal government automatically recognizes it. While the federal government will automatically recognize a state-sanctioned marriage between a man and a woman, DOMA prohibits the federal government from doing the same for a marriage between two people of the same sex.

This case will likely make it the US Supreme Court where it will likely be found, in my opinion, unconstitutional.

2. The Prop 8 Saga Continues

Lately, I have found Proposition 8 to be a tiresome issue. I am beyond disgusted at the marriage defenders' gloating, their demonization of the LGBT community, and of their ignorant double-standard that says it's acceptable for the AFA to launch an anti-gay boycott every other day, but it's somehow Anti-Christian Domestic Terrorism for gay people to engage in legal protests, boycotts, and the posting of public information about who donated in support of the discriminatory measure.

But I digress. On March 5, 2009, the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the legal challenge to invalidate Proposition 8. To summarize, LGBT organizations are arguing that Proposition 8 was a "substantial change" to the California constitution and, therefore, it required the involvement of the legislature. Opponents are arguing that Proposition 8 was a mere "amendment" to the constitution and, thus, it required only a simple majority vote of the people. It's a pretty boring case, I think ,and even if we win we'll never hear the end of how Oh Dear God Judicial Tyranny is Running Amok and Overturning the Will of the People!

I'm going to end my commentary on Prop 8 today with an amusing note. In making my daily anti-gay blog rounds, I noticed that at least one "marriage defender" has an ironic sense of victimization. In expressing angst over the California legislature's recent passage of a resolution noting its official opposition to Prop 8, this particular blogger lamented the so-called "Mob Rule of CA House Democrats."

Aye-aye-aye. Mob rule. Nope, we certainly wouldn't want that now, would we?

3. Illinois Civil Unions

Earlier, I wrote about Illinois' proposed Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act which would "provide eligible same-sex and opposite-sex couples with the same treatment as those in a civil marriage."

Last week, in the very busy week for marriage news, the "civil unions" version of that bill finally "squeaked through a legislative committee." This bill would not legalize same-sex marriage, but would grant same-sex couples the right to enter into "civil unions" and receive many of the state-level benefits of marriage. Like the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act, this bill also makes explicit the right that religious organizations (have always had and would continue to have anyway) not to solemnize same-sex ceremonies.

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