The sole purpose of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was to exclude gay and lesbian couples from more than one thousand federal laws and programs that were available to heterosexual married couples.
The decision the U.S. Supreme Court made yesterday to overturn this law points to this fact. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing the majority opinion, clearly described this when he said that the law had “no legitimate purpose” and its purpose was to “disparage and to injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”
This is a victory for justice in our society. It invalidates a hateful federal law, recognizing that the states are the ones that establish the definition of marriage and that Congress can’t write laws to punish those decisions.
Yes, today more than ever, the issue of same-sex marriage is in the hands of each state. The high court also declared this in its decision yesterday about California’s Proposition 8.
In that case, judicial caution prevailed. The court used a technicality (the lack of standing of one of the parties) to avoid determining whether the right to gay marriage existswhich, for example, would have declared the ballot initiative banning these marriages unconstitutional. The Supreme Court will have to make that decision at a later time.
From the beginning, we have said that what threatens a marriage are infidelity and domestic abuse, among others; but never the sexual orientation of others who have nothing to do with that particular couple. Marriage is a personal decision between two people, where the religious values of others should not matter.
DOMA’s intention was strictly punitive. That is why today, rightly so, this law is illegal.