Thursday, November 29, 2012

DOMA: From The Capitol Dome To The West Façade

US Capitol Dome
Supreme Court
The inappropriately named Defense of Marriage Act... so many laws serving only right-wing Republican interests also have absurd or Orwellian names... has been found in part (Section 3) unconstitutional in eight federal courts including the First and Second Circuit Courts of Appeal. The Obama DoJ has been instructed not to defend the law in court, but the law is nonetheless still enforced. The House Republican leadership, which is permitted to practice before the Supreme Court, has taken it upon itself to defend the law in place of the DoJ. So we aren't rid of the law yet. It's done for under the Capitol Dome, but not yet under the Supreme Court's West Façade.

Here are the primary provisions according to Wikipedia:
Section 2. Powers reserved to the states
No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.
Section 3. Definition of marriage
In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.
From its passage in 1996, this has been a law looking for a reason to exist. While there may be some legitimate federal interest in restricting marriage, say, to two people, there is none whatsoever in restricting it to opposite-sex couples: indeed, the law seems to me (note IANAL) to violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. But Republicans seem determined to defend it come hell or high water (you'd think they would have had enough of both hell and high water during the last election), and so the court battle may well proceed no matter how few rank-and-file Americans support the law today.

So the Supreme Court will meet tomorrow (Friday 11/30) to decide whether to take a DOMA case, and if so, which case(s)... there are about eight possibilities. According to "experts," current odds are in favor of their taking such a case, and if so, actually rendering a decision rather than declining to decide (which would have the unfortunate consequence of allowing the law to apply in some jurisdictions and not in others).

And now for a brief sermon. How long, and how many times, is it going to take the United States of America to learn that ultimately it cannot reserve to itself the privilege of discriminating against some of its citizens? How long was it before slavery was ended, and at what cost? How long before women received the franchise? (And make no mistake: women are not yet equal before the law, and the GOP is determined to keep the law that way.) How long before LGBTQ individuals and their families can engage in normal life activities such as insuring a spouse or visiting a spouse in the hospital (possibly making life-or-death decisions for one another) or receiving federal benefits already long since available to straight married couples?

How many years will the bigots run our country? Must we repeat this absurd exercise every few decades with a different cohort of our citizens, straining to discriminate unjustly against each group in turn, until finally there's no one left to discriminate against? Is that who we are? Are we bigots to the core?

One could never predict how this particular Supreme Court will rule on anything... how could one, considering leftover relics like Scalia still tyrannizing the process. But I think we have to be glad if the Court decides to go for it, to take a case, to rule on the matter for the entire nation. Before I die, I'd really like to live in a country "with liberty and justice for ALL."

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