Should the Supreme Court Overturn the Defense of Marriage Act?
The Supreme Court this week will hear two landmark cases regarding gay marriage: The first will decide whether or not to overturn California's Proposition 8, and the second will determine whether or not the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage at the federal level as between a man and a woman, remains the law of the land. The latter case was brought by an 83-year-old widow who was denied an estate tax exemption due to DOMA, as the law is widely known, which prevents the federal government from granting tax benefits to same-sex couples.
Opponents of the law argue that it is either an infringement on states' rights or a violation of the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, due to its singling out of gay couples for different legal treatment. President Bill Clinton, who signed DOMA in 1996, now says "even worse than providing an excuse for discrimination, the law is itself discriminatory. It should be overturned." House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said that she's "pretty confident" that the Supreme Court will strike down DOMA.
Some supporters of the law, meanwhile, argue that the proper course of action is to let the gay marriage debate play out in the states, rather than via a ruling from the Supreme Court. Paul Clement, a lead lawyer for the organization supporting DOMA before the court, wrote that by allowing the states to address marriage individually, "there is a premium on persuading opponents, rather than labeling them as bigots motivated by animus." But others take a wider view, claiming that gay marriage itself should not be sanctioned by the court. "What we have come to call the gay marriage debate is not a debate about homosexuality, but about marriage," said one supporting brief. "It is not about whom is eligible to marry, but about what marriage is."
Should the Supreme Court overturn DOMA? Here is the Debate Club's take: