You know, the main thing I have tried to do in this discussion is get some clarity on what the legal definition of marriage is, and what the legal purpose of a marriage is. The blog post I linked to suggested that the legal purpose for marriage was a means to generate families.
Ahhh. You see, no one here is being evasive concerning the legal definition of marriage in the US. In fact, we don't know at this point, but we might know tomorrow.
You see, two very big cases have been before the Supreme Court over the past couple of weeks, and the outcome of the court's decision will probably alter the national definition of marriage, which differs from some individual states and their definition of marriage.
Up for scrutiny is a law that was passed in the 1990's known as DOMA, or the Defense of Marriage Act. That legislation was passed by the Newt Gingrich congress during the "Republican Revolution," and oddly, signed by President Bill Clinton. That 1996 legislation defined a marriage as between a man and a woman. The Supreme Court is deciding whether to repeal the law.
You see, as others have pointed out, various states have either had popular votes to endorse same sex marriage or to prohibit it, and other states have had executive actions which defined marriage in one way or another.
And the great irony here, is that the republicans, who tend to be more anti-gay marriage than pro-gay marriage, it is those republicans who are all about the rights of individual states to make their own laws, and keeping the federal government out of family matters and business matters.
They are also great proponents of giving tax breaks to the rich.
So some states, including my home state of NY, legalized same sex marriage. And the states were within their rights to do so. But under DOMA, matters in the federal domain, such as immigration, (and other international events) as well as federal taxes, could not recognize same sex marriage. So if a heterosexual US citizen married a qualified immigrant, the US citizen could petition for the residency of his or her spouse. But if a gay US citizen married a qualified immigrant, that US citizen could not petition for the residency of his or her spouse. And same sex couples married in other countries, or in states that recognized same sex marriage had problems if they moved to states that did not. Adoption, child custody, and a whole range of other issues were in chaos.
And then there were taxes. And issues near and dear to the republican identity, such as estate taxes when a wealthy loved one dies.
That is where it starts getting fun.
You see, the plaintiff in the case before the Supreme Court right now is an 83 year old woman who married her partner of many decades in Toronto Canada in 2007. The couple lived in NY. In 2009, her wife died. Now if a spouse dies, that person's property becomes the property of the surviving spouse. But if someone dies and leaves her massive wealth to her roommate, the roommate has a HUGE tax burden. In this case, the widow owed over $300,000 in federal taxes due to DOMA, which prohibited her marriage from being recognized by federal law.
Now here in NY State, (also the plaintiff's home state) the State Assembly had passed same sex marriage legislation several times, starting in 2006, but it was rejected by the State Senate. These votes had taken place both before, during and after the couple's marriage in Toronto. But way back in 2004, some mayor in a dinky little upstate town called New Paltz decided it was within his right to conduct same sex marriages, and so he married 25 couples in front of cheering crowds. Other localities within the state decided to recognize the New Paltz marriages. Finally, in 2011, NY state officially legalized same sex marriage.
So all of these events were taking place during the period of time that the widow was contesting her tax bill via the various court systems, and the case landed in the Supreme Court a few weeks ago. We are expecting a ruling, probably this week. It is widely expected that the court will repeal DOMA, and the implications will be huge, impacting not only on this widow's tax burden, but extending into immigration law, family law, and a wide range of other laws.
Now the poor republicans, who really want to prohibit same sex marriage, but who also have a legacy of fighting against federal mandates (like DOMA) are really in a tizzy. The best they can do at this point, is be upset about the fact that the courts, (rather than the legislative or executive branches of government) are making the decision.
So it is a party all around for those of us who like to smirk at republican hypocrisy.
But it is a really bad week to ask for clarity on the US legal definition of marriage.