Same-sex marriage bill right step for equality
A new piece of legislation announced last week could make the spotlight shining on our nation’s same-sex marriage debate a little brighter.
The Respect for Marriage Act, or RFMA, was crafted by three House Democrats and already has the support of more than 90 lawmakers. RFMA seeks to overturn a federal marriage law known as the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.
DOMA, which was signed into law in 1996, denies recognition of same-sex marriage and allows states the right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages that were sanctioned in states where marriages of that sort are recognized as valid. RFMA would repeal DOMA, allowing those in same-sex unions to retain their rights across the country.
Since DOMA became a law, six states have legalized same-sex marriage and several other states are pushing referendums for its legalization in coming elections. Despite DOMA’s status as a law, same-sex marriage is making slow and steady progress in this country, whether people like it or not. But despite growing support for same-sex marriage among Americans, the RFMA might not become a law in the near future.
It might be surprising to some that it was Democratic President Bill Clinton who originally signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law 13 years ago. And President Barack Obama has angered some gay rights groups by publicly opposing same-sex marriage, although he does support civil unions. It’s unlikely Obama would sign the Respect for Marriage Act into law if given the opportunity.
Even the openly gay Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., has not signed off on it, citing the fact that the legislation likely wouldn’t get past the floor.
Many in support of DOMA — and the defense of “traditional marriage” in general — have stated same-sex marriage is an assault on the moral values of our nation. Try as we might, we can’t see any validity in that argument.
If certain lawmakers are so concerned about “defending marriage,” then where is the outcry over divorce or marital infidelity? In a time in which one in two marriages ends in divorce, it seems like a waste of breath on the part of certain conservative lawmakers to decry how same-sex marriage is ruining our nation’s morals.
In fact, legislation such as DOMA isn’t defending anything but outdated and bigoted laws that restrict the rights of our nation’s gays and lesbians. It’s DOMA, for instance, that prevents a married gay couple from filing a joint tax return in a state in which same-sex unions are illegal.
Although we believe all Americans should have the right to marry who they wish, it at least should be common sense that legally married persons should retain their rights from state to state. Although our nation still might have a long way to go in terms of accepting and supporting gays and lesbians, the fact that lawmakers are behind this legislation is encouraging.
Even if RFMA doesn’t pass, it is a welcome attempt by lawmakers to continue to show that same-sex marriage is growing in support. It also shows that Congress is willing to act where Obama is not, which is commendable.