Across the nation, supporters of LGBTQ legislation joined Edie Windsor of New York in celebrating the Supreme Court ruling to repeal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) in a 5-4 vote. On November 9th, 2009, Edie Windsor sued the federal government after being taxed $363,000 after the death of her spouse Thea Spyer in 2009.
For those who are not familiar with DOMA , it is a piece of legislation signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996 as a way to define and protect the institution of marriage. It was meant to establish a Federal definition of: (1) "marriage" as only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife; and (2) "spouse" as only a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife.
Section three of DOMA prohibited the federal government from recognizing marriages between gay or lesbian couples despite a legal marriage certificate within their state. Meaning these couples could not benefit from federal programs including healthcare and spousal supports, therefore limiting the rights of LGBTQ families.
What does it mean now that DOMA has been repealed?
- The federal government now recognizes legal marriages of same sex couples.
- Binational couples will now have the ability to sponsor United States residency for their partners.
- Military families will now receive military health insurance, relocation assistance, and surviving spousal benefits.
- Health insurance and pension protections are now available for deferral employees’ spouses.
- Social security benefits will now be accessible for widows/widowers.
- Joint income tax filing and exemption from federal state taxes.
Also in California, Proposition 8 has also been ruled unconstitutional. The Proposition 8 decision now eliminates the confusion that plagued same sex couples since being legalized and then banned in 2008.
Chief Justice Roberts writes: “We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here.” If you think there is a little disconnect here — the U.S. government didn’t defend DOMA in the Windsor case yet the court ruled in that case — you have a point. But this only serves to reinforce the new ground rules in same-sex marriage: We still don’t know what states can and cannot do regarding their own same-sex marriage laws. Read More…
What Does the Future Hold?
Although there is now recognition on the federal level, many states are still struggling with marriage equality. Currently, 13 states now acknowledge same sex marriage, and over 30 states ban it. There is still work to be done.