The New York Times today published an editorial encouraging the Supreme Court to strike down the “noxious law” known as DOMA — the federal Defense of Marriage Act — which, as the Times notes, six federal courts have ruled is unconstitutional.
“Six federal courts have ruled on the Defense of Marriage Act and reached the same conclusion: the 1996 law violates the Constitution by denying same-sex couples, who are legally married under state law, federal benefits afforded to heterosexual couples for no good reason,” the Times editorial board writes, adding, “We hope the justices will review the cases and issue a strong ruling striking down this noxious law.”
The Defense of Marriage Act also heaps particular inequities on married gay service members and their families. Under the law, same-sex spouses are denied benefits granted to other military spouses, including medical and dental insurance, treatment in military medical facilities, discounted housing and surviving spouse benefits. This policy is completely at odds with the military’s goal of building a culture of openness and equality following the demise of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
The legal challenge over federal benefits is a matter separate from the broader question of whether gay people have a constitutional right to marry, which the justices may soon reach as well. Meanwhile, Congress has no authority to enact unconstitutional laws that violate equal protection, disrespect valid marriages and mistreat gay people and their families. As the nation moves toward greater acceptance of same-sex marriage, there should be at least five justices willing to say that.
Many note that the Supreme Court, though supposedly above politics, is indeed a political body. They need to be reminded that over a dozen polls have found the majority of citizens support same-sex marriage, as have voters, legislatures, or courts in seven states and the District of Columbia.
On a legal front, it has been proven time and time against that DOMA — at the very least, section three of DOMA — is unconstitutional. The people have spoken time and time again. No matter how you slice it: public opinion or the law, the Supreme Court is faced with an easy decision. The only question is, will they make it?
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