The conflict over states rights for same-sex couples has caused debate among those who favor or oppose gay marriages.
Some states have legalized same-sex marriage, yet the federal government will not provide these couples with the same federal rights as opposite-sex couples who are married. The federal government attempts to limit the rights of same-sex couples, even though the decision for legalizing same-sex marriage belongs to each individual state government.
If same-sex marriage is legal in a state in which a same-sex couple marries, then the same federal benefits should be available to this couple because, legally, the marriage is the same. States have the right to outlaw or permit this legal union; however, the federal government has often chosen not to recognize this state law and right, regardless of the states’s decision.
The Defense of Marriage Act, also referred to as DOMA, allows the federal government to “unmarry” couples of same-sex marriage. DOMA was passed by the majority easily in 1996, under President Bill Clinton. This federal law states that marriage is a legal union solely between a man and a woman, restricting a legal union of partners of the same sex. DOMA thus allows the federal government to ignore the marriage of same-sex couples, from states that permit legal gay marriage. The federal government’s refusal of recognition includes refusing these couples the federal benefits offered for married couples of the opposite sex.
DOMA has been challenged by many federal courts, but the Supreme Court will have to make the final call on whether the law is unconstitutional. These federal courts have claim that DOMA, especially Section 3, is unconstitutional because it does not satisfy the equal protection aspect that the Constitution promises to the country. DOMA does not upheld true federalism because the law does not respect those states that have chosen or will choose to legalize an issue given to them to handle, but only supports those states that still outlaw same-sex marriage.
President Barack Obama is the first president to truly state his support for legalizing same-sex marriage. He does not support DOMA because he believes the law is discriminating against same-sex couples. If DOMA is officially deemed unconstitutional, same-sex marriage will not necessarily be legalized nationally. This change means that the states will still make the decision on the legality of same-sex marriage, but the federal government must recognize the marriage of same-sex couples from states that legalize the union and extend the benefits offered to opposite-sex married couples to same-sex married couples as well.
This issue is not solely about the rights of couples of the same-sex, but also about the federal’s government unnecessary and unconstitutional involvement in state affairs. The federal government has no right to ignore a law that a state makes on a local issue because the national government does have that power. In order for federalism to be effective, the federal government must respect the powers and decisions of the states.
President Obama is on the right track to resolving this issue, extending equal rights to all married couples, and restoring federalism.