The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a controversial law in the past as it is now in the present. I chose to write about this law because the concept of gay marriage is being liberally accepted today compared to its heavy intolerance in the past. Today, countless couples are trying to marry yet must face obstacles such as DOMA that hinders their freedom to marry. I, myself, is an advocate for same-sex marriage and learning more about DOMA lets me see what these same-sex couples go through. In this paper, I will discuss the origins of the DOMA, what it encompasses, what the effects are today and in the future, how DOMA affects me, and how DOMA affects Guam.
I. The Origins of the Defense of Marriage Act
The historical context of DOMA arose from a Hawaii Supreme Court Case, Baehr vs. Lewin (1993). Nina Baehr sued the state of Hawaii stating that the state’s refusal of giving her and her partner a marriage license was illegal discrimination and unconstitutional. The court saw that case had merit and ruled that the prohibition of same-sex marriage constituted to discrimination based on gender. Under Hawaii’s Equal Rights Amendment, the state would need to exhibit a compelling state interest in order to ban same-sex marriage. The case was remanded to a lower court, which declared that Hawaii must permit same-sex marriages because the state failed to exhibit that its ban on such marriages gathered a compelling state interest.
The ruling of Baehr vs. Lewin was a victory for gay rights activists, hope for other states searching for the same freedom, and disappointment for opponents of same-sex marriage. Yet this victory was short lived (until complete legalization in November 13, 2013) since the state appealed the lower court’s decision. From this controversial case arose a series of anti-gay protests, anti-gay activists, and anti-gay campaigns then anti-gay laws in 1995 in the states starting with Utah. The outcomes of such events led to Congress’ involvement by the introduction of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 and it’s signing into law by President Bill Clinton on May 21, 1996.
II. What DOMA Encompasses
The Defense of Marriage Act has two important parts: Section 2 and Section 3. Section 2 claims that all states and territories have the right to not acknowledge the marriage between same sex partners that originated in states where they are recognized legally. Section 3 restrains the federal government from accepting any marriages between lesbian or gay couples for the purpose of federal laws or programs, even if those couples are deemed legally married by their home state. Recently, Section 3 has been ruled unconstitutional under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment in the court case of United States vs. Windsor.
In this court case, Edie Windsor filed a lawsuit against the constitutionality of DOMA. Windsor was saddled with more than $360,000 of estate taxes of her late spouse, Thea, who died in 2009. The federal government...