It’s easy to say that the Defense of Marriage Act was doomed from the outset and that its demise yesterday was inevitable. Passed in the heat of the election campaign of 1996 and foisted as a knee-jerk reaction to the possibility that Hawai’i was about to legalize same-sex marriage (this was before the Aloha State was considered an “exotic” place to be from), it had a relatively short life span; a little under 17 years.
For a while it looked like it was carved in stone. The full weight of the federal government, in all its intricacies of laws, orders, rules and codes, was behind the denial of spousal benefits of marriages between two people who shared similar genitalia. And once a federal law is in place, it is very hard to extract the tentacles.
But its doom was ordained by its own existence. Born in a fit of pique and panic, it begged for states to pass marriage equality, or at the very least civil unions, and once they did, DOMA — an assault on the Equal Protection clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments anyway — became moot. Equal rights to married couples granted by states such as Massachusetts or New York were being denied by the federal government, and that put DOMA on the path to invalidation.
What is especially ironic is that all of the arguments against DOMA are deeply conservative and traditional right wing talking points, ranging from big government intrusion into the lives of citizens to the hatred of the Internal Revenue Service and its big-footing of the tax code. The plaintiff in the case that brought DOMA to the Supreme Court wasn’t looking for the federal government to bless her wedding; she wanted to be treated fairly by the tax collector. How hard is that for a Republican to understand and sympathize with?
From the day DOMA was signed into law by President Clinton (who must acknowledge his own chutzpah for championing the ruling yesterday), I believed it would be thrown out. That does not lessen the joy and satisfaction that I left yesterday morning when the ruling came down. If anything, it affirms my belief in the law and the inevitability of marriage equality, even if I am still single. (Hope springs eternal.)
And we are one step closer to putting an end to an adjective-enhanced society, such as “gay marriage” or “lesbian couple.” We’re just people.
(Photo: Michael Knaapen and his husband John Becker react outside the US Supreme Court in Washington DC on June 26, 2013. By Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty.)