Recent good news in the fight for gay marriage may inspire you to tie the knot. But think carefully before you hit the road to say “I do.”
President Obama’s administration made a blockbuster announcement Feb. 23, saying it has concluded that one part of the Defense of Marriage Act will not be able to pass constitutional muster in the 2nd Circuit and the Department of Justice would not defend that part of the law in two pending cases in that circuit.
“The president and I have concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation warrant heightened scrutiny and that, as applied to same-sex couples legally married under state law, Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.
The decision does not automatically overturn DOMA and does not mean that gay couples will now receive the federal benefits of marriage. The law still has to be repealed by Congress, which is unlikely in the near future, or struck down as unconstitutional by the courts.
Political decisions are a lot like oceanic earthquakes. First, there’s the quake, and then there’s the wave. Nobody can tell just how significant the wave is until it reaches land. Sometimes, the wave has greater impact than the earthquake; sometimes, it’s just a swell.
So it is with the decision by the Obama Department of Justice to call the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional. The news was a political earthquake for the LGBT community. Now, there’s the wait-and-see for how big an impact the announcement will have.
In this case, there are two waves to watch for: the legal and the political.
“This is a monumental turning point in the history of the quest for equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people.”
— Jon Davidson, Lambda Legal, Defense & Education Fund
“The president’s leadership on this issue has forever changed the landscape for LGBT people in this country … This is the beginning of the end, not just for the mean-spirited and indefensible Defense of Marriage Act, but for the entire panoply of laws that discriminate against same-sex couples.”
— Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights
Does the recent good news about gay marriage make you want to say “I do”?
Getting legally married can be tremendously meaningful for your relationship and commitment to each other. But it also brings complicated legal consequences, especially since Georgia bans same-sex marriage and will not recognize such marriages from out of state.
You also still will not receive the federal benefits of marriage, because President Obama’s decision to no longer defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act does not automatically overturn DOMA. That will have to come from Congress or the courts.
In the meantime, Lambda Legal recommends that you consider these issues before traveling to another jurisdiction to marry your same-sex partner.
Media personality and possible presidential candidate Sarah Palin responded today to the Department of Justice's announcement that the Obama administration will no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
Palin responded to a question from the National Organization for Marriage, which was posted on the group’s blog earlier today.
"I have always believed that marriage is between one man and one woman. Like the majority of Americans, I support the Defense of Marriage Act and find it appalling that the Obama administration decided not to defend this federal law which was enacted with broad bipartisan support and signed into law by a Democrat president. It's appalling, but not surprising that the president has flip-flopped on yet another issue from his stated position as a candidate to a seemingly opposite position once he was elected."
What a week.
On Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. The administration believes that Section 3 of DOMA, which defines marriage as a union between “a man and a woman” and “spouse” as an opposite sex person, is unconstitutional. The importance of this message coming from the president can’t be overstated.
Recent rulings in circuit court cases have found Section 3 to be unconstitutional, as well. There are several cases making their way through the legal system that challenge the law's muster, in particular, whether Section 3 violates the constitutional right to due process.
The Obama administration made a blockbuster announcement Wednesday, saying it has concluded that one part of the Defense of Marriage Act will not be able to pass constitutional muster in the 2nd Circuit and that DOJ would not defend that part of the law in two pending cases in that circuit.
It was a dramatic, unexpected, and significant move by the Obama administration and one that could trigger maneuvers by DOMA supporters to appoint an intervenor to defend the law. But beyond the eventual legal consequences of the announcement, the political impact was characterized by most LGBT leaders as historic and monumental.
“This is a monumental turning point in the history of the quest for equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people,” said Jon Davidson, legal director for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.
The Human Rights Campaign is reporting that the Obama administration will stop its defense of Section 3 the "Defense of Marriage Act," the federal law that denies rights to legally married same-sex couples as well as allowing states to not recognize gay marriage.
“This is a monumental decision for the thousands of same-sex couples and their families who want nothing more than the same rights and dignity afforded to other married couples,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese in a press release. “As the President has stated previously, DOMA unfairly discriminates against Americans and we applaud him for fulfilling his oath to defend critical constitutional principles.”
The Washington Post is also reporting the news.
President Obama says Section 3 of Defense of Marriage Act 'unconstitutional'
The coming out of former Republican National Committee Chair Ken Mehlman — who led the GOP at a time when the party was backing the Federal Marriage Amendment and marriage amendments in states throughout the country — is inspiring mixed reactions among LGBT advocates as some criticize him for his past actions and others welcome his new public support.
Mehlman’s announcement about his sexual orientation officially became public in an interview published Aug. 25 by the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder. According to the article, Mehlman told family and associates he’s gay and came to this conclusion fairly recently.