By Rachel Brody |
Marriage is already legalized nationwide. It just isn't available to all couples, hence the awkward phrase "gay marriage." Marriage should be marriage. Really, another way to ask this question would be, "Should Marriage Be Made Available to All Loving Families?"
Same-sex couples should be able to marry in every state in the nation. Equal protection under the law is a foundational guarantee for all Americans, and denial of the right to marry flies in the face of this shared value. It makes life exceedingly difficult for families.
People from all backgrounds increasingly support the right of same-sex couples to share in the celebration and responsibilities that marriage brings. Recent polls show that 53 percent of Americans support legalizing marriage for same-sex couples; 70 percent of Americans ages 18-34 support it. They don't want to see their friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family members treated differently. They don't want to see the people they care about forced to live without the vital protections that bolster families—particularly in these hard economic times. Others support marriage for same-sex couples because they embrace the ideals of liberty and fairness. They know that no one should have to cross state lines to marry. That is not the American way.
More states are choosing to treat all couples fairly by extending marriage rights, but the fact remains that many states still have constitutional amendments against it. Yet the tide of public opinion continues to flow toward fairness, and more and more people become less and less interested in voting on their neighbors' relationships.
So what can be done to hasten fairness? Congress can end federal discrimination against married same-sex couples by passing the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law that targets legally married same-sex couples for discriminatory treatment, selectively denying them federal responsibilities, rights, and protections.
As long as DOMA exists, millions of families will continue to suffer senseless discrimination and economic hardships, which include the denial of Social Security benefits to surviving spouses; denial of medical leave to care for a spouse; denial of healthcare benefits; unfair taxation for employee health benefits for spouses; denial of benefits to spouses of armed services veterans, and on and on.
Another path toward equality involves the various court cases challenging marriage discrimination that are working their way through the legal system. Like the state anti-miscegenation laws, state measures banning marriage for same-sex couples should ultimately be struck down.
Ending marriage discrimination will help build stronger families, stronger communities, and a stronger America.
About Rea Carey Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
Evan Wolfson Founder and President of Freedom to Marry
Peter Sprigg Fellow at Family Research Council
Brian Brown President of the National Organization for Marriage