The Struggle Between State And Federal Responsibilities: Same Sex Marriage

1676 words - 7 pages

Federalism refers to the system of government in which power is split between a national government and a state government as is defined by a constitution. The overarching purpose of such a government is to grant each level their own equal sovereign and independent powers in an overall effort to eliminate too large of a control by one level. One of the major requirements of this style of government is that each level has the independent authority to pass laws - this gives states the ability to maintain a sense of identification and independence from the federal government and allows laws to differ across state borders. The United States upholds a, generally, successful form of federalism ...view middle of the document...

This issue of whether or not same-sex marriage should be legal or illegal is a very controversial one and is still presently under deliberation. As was previously stated, the Tenth Amendment declares that any situation that is not clearly stated in the constitution is to be left to the states. Considering that the issue of same-sex marriage is nowhere discussed in the constitution, it is therefore under the discretion of each individual state. According to this belief, the states have the right to deal with this issue however they see fit. In 1996 Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which defines the parameters of marriage and what shall and shall not be federally recognized (Nelson). Specifically, section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act declares that a marriage is a union only between a man and a woman (Supreme Court of the United States). This declaration defies the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, which addresses providing protection from unequal laws to citizens. For example, laws cannot be discriminatory by race or gender. In order to respect this aspect of the constitution, the Defense of Marriage Act therefore should not and could not exist. The Equal Protection Clause is directly violated when a law provides one group with the rights to do something and denies another group the same right, which is precisely what DOMA does (Cornell University Legal Information Institute “Equal Protection”).
Continuing to consider the constitutionality of banning same-sex marriage, it is important to review actual situations that have occurred regarding this issue. In the recent case of US v. Windsor (2013), on the event of her wife’s death Edith Windsor was not granted the tax exemption and social security benefits typical for a surviving spouse. This occurred due to the definition of marriage being between a man and a woman as was created by the Defense of Marriage Act. After taking the case to the Supreme Court it was ruled that based upon the Due Processes Clause of the Fifth Amendment, the Defense of Marriage Act - particularly section 3 - is unconstitutional. In conjunction, the Due Process Clause states that no American citizen shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without “due process of the law,” and section 3 of DOMA victimizes a specific group of citizens who would normally be promised these rights without any realistic, legal reason of doing so (Cornell University Legal Information Institute “Due Process”). The final decision of this case - ruling that the aforementioned aspects of DOMA are unconstitutional - further ruled that the federal government had to abide by and recognize any marriages that were recognized by any individual state. While this is in fact true and a fair ruling based on the constitution, the counterargument to this situation is relatively strong as well. Although the federal government should respect marriages accepted by the states, it is not the states that provide most of the...

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