Friday, July 09, 2010

Bigotry is unconstitutional

In 1996, the US Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which restricted the federal government to recognising only opposite-sex marriage. As a result, when liberal states introduced same-sex marriage, same-sex married couples were denied federal benefits and tax breaks given to every other married couple. Today, a federal court in Boston ruled that the Act was unconstitutional. And the reason is pretty obvious: it discriminates against same-sex couples, in violation of the equal protection clause of the US Constitution:

In case 1 (Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. United States Department of Health and Human Services), Judge Joseph Tauro ruled that Congress violated the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when it passed DOMA, which narrowed the definition of marriage, under federal law, to be an institution that exists solely between one man and one woman. Under Judge Tauro’s ruling, the federal government in so doing violated state sovereignty by treating some couples with Massachusetts’ marriage licenses differently than others. In case 2 (Gill v. Office of Personnel Management), the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) asked the judge to consider whether DOMA violates the right of eight same-sex couples in Massachusetts to equal protection of the law. The judge’s ruling affirms that DOMA does indeed violate the equal protection principles embodied in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.
The rulings will be appealed, of course, and its a long, long way to the Supreme Court. But the journey has started. And if the rulings are upheld, the US will take another step towards being the land of freedom it ought to be, rather than a narrow, pinched, hateful Christian theocracy.