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Definition of Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
On September 21, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into law. This law has faced opposition on numerous occasions since its introduction because it authorizes unequal treatment of lawfully married same-sex couples. In essence, it discriminatingly deprives such couples over 1,100 protections entitled to legally married couples at the federal level (Peralta 1-9).
Therefore, this law denies married same-sex couples many vital responsibilities and protections including immigration rights, tax benefits, retirement savings, social security benefits, veterans’ benefits and health insurance. Many people who opposed the law wanted Section 3 revoked because it did not allow the federal government to acknowledge same-sex unions even in situations where home states of such individuals acknowledged their unions (Freedom to Marry 3).
Status of DOMA
On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court made a ruling that annulled Section 3 of the law because it contravenes the U.S constitution. The court made that landmark ruling in Windsor v. United States (Freedom to Marry 5). The decision made it possible for married same-sex couples to have access to the numerous protections entitled to legal marriages.
Currently, several strategies are in place to overturn the law. This move is likely to prevent same-sex marriage intolerance. According to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (3-4), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against DOMA because it contravened the pledge of “equal protection” provided in the constitution.
When Windsor lost her spouse, the government stipulated that she pay large sums of money in form of taxes. This move prompted her to file a case against the government. At the time, the federal government considered her marriage as unlawful. However, the ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated DOMA. This means that the federal state now considers Windsor’s marriage legal.
Effect of DOMA on Families
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on DOMA will have a significant effect on many families. The areas affected mainly relate to the various federal rights that facilitate essential marital benefits. The various benefits covered include social security, military family assistance, taxation, hospital visitation opportunities and health care benefits. The areas outlined above represent just a few of the many marital benefits that same-sex couples could not access before the annulment of Section 3.
However, same-sex couples in legal marriages will now enjoy these benefits. In its current state, DOMA makes it difficult for same-sex couples to enjoy these benefits. For instance, same-sex couples cannot enjoy these benefits even when their states recognize equality of marriage but the couples happen to live in states where there is no such recognition (Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation 5-6).
Besides, many organizations usually determine benefits on the state in which a couple lives rather than where they were married. This means that legally married same-sex couples living a state that does not recognize marriage equality may not have access to the newly presented benefits. Even so, the repeal enables binational couples to assist their partners from foreign countries to gain residency in America.
The recent court verdict on DOMA also means that a military same-sex couple will also have access to the benefits if the couple happens to live in a state that appreciates equality of marriage. The list of these well-merited advantages includes relocation support, housing allowance and military health cover.
Other vital benefits linked to the law include improved base allowance and surviving spousal assistance. In addition, the Department of Defense offers to grant same-sex spouses in the military all the benefits that are open to opposite-sex spouses. Some of these benefits include medical allowance, burial at Arlington National Cemetery, dental allowance and basic housing allowance (Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation 7-8).
The repeal of DOMA is significant because it helps to reinforce protection for families. This means that the extension of the federal protections of marriage to all married spouses and their families would play a critical role in enabling them to take care of each other in a better way. In addition, this is likely to make them become more responsible for each other. Thus, the repeal of the law is likely to lead to stronger families.
Reasons that Led To the Striking Down of Section 3 of DOMA
The repeal of Section 3 of DOMA is a significant achievement because it ensures that the protections for same-sex couples in America are accessible. Currently, this law allows lawfully married same-sex couples similar benefits available to the straight couples (Peralta 1-9).
Some of the key reasons that could have caused the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate Section 3 include social security benefits, safeguard to pension and health cover for federal government staff. The law also secures benefits for military spouses. Other reasons include exemption from federal estate taxes, joint income tax filing, political contribution regulations, rights to intellectual and creative property and immigration benefits for binational couples (Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation 9).
Freedom to Marry. The Defense of Marriage Act. 2013. Web.
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Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation. Frequently Asked Questions: Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). July 2013. Web.
Peralta, Eyder. Court Overturns DOMA, Sidesteps Broad Gay Marriage Ruling. 26 June 2013. Web.