Activists nationwide will be gathering on Jan. 10 to protest the federal Defense of Marriage Act and gather petition signatures asking President-elect Obama to support its repeal. My husband and I will be at the Boston event, 1:30-4:30 PM in front of City Hall. To find the event in your city and print out the official petition form, visit Join the Impact.
DOMA, passed in 1996, defined marriage as between a man and a woman for purposes of all federal laws, and decreed that states did not have to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Normally, the Constitution requires states to give “full faith and credit” to the laws of other states.
This means, for instance, that a woman covered by her domestic partner’s insurance must pay federal income tax on those benefits, where a heterosexual married couple would not. Same-sex couples can’t file joint tax returns or inherit as surviving spouses. A man might not be allowed to visit his partner in the hospital because the state where he fell sick treats them as legal strangers, even if they’re married in their home state. A straight person can get a green card for his or her immigrant spouse, but there’s no such mechanism for same-sex couples. These are just a few examples of the 1,100 rights and privileges that we heterosexual couples take for granted.
DOMA’s title is a misnomer because it confers no new protections on straight married couples, nor removes any threat to the legal privileges we already enjoy. It should have been called the “Deprivation of Marriage Act”.
Even Christians who oppose gay marriage should rethink whether this is a proper use of state power. Disadvantaging same-sex couples has no effect on how we live our lives. It only “defends” our specialness at the expense of a minority group. Isn’t marriage worthwhile in itself? Do we really need the incentive of feeling superior to others?
Jesus didn’t say anything about homosexuality, but he sure had a lot to say against people whose righteousness depended on invidious comparisons. I’m thinking especially of the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16), as well as the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14).
So, DOMA defenders, what’s it really about? Are you hoping that if you make gay marriage difficult enough, they’ll give up and become straight?
I’ll let Jon Stewart have the last word on this one, in this Daily Show interview from December 2008 with former Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. “Religion is far more of a choice than homosexuality…and the protections that we have for religion…talk about a lifestyle choice!” Stewart observes, adding, “It would be redefining a word, and it feels like semantics is cold comfort when it comes to humanity.”