On The Gay Marriage Front

Ken AshfordConstitution, Sex/Morality/Family ValuesLeave a Comment

It went little-noticed, but D.C. made an advancement in the gay marriage acceptance.  No, sadly, it didn't go as far as the New England states and Iowa in recognizing gay marriages solemnized within its borders, but it did pass a law saying that it would honor and recognize gay marriages from other states.  So you if you gay marry in Boston, and you move to D.C., they will treat you for legal persons as a married person.

This all goes to DOMA (The Defense of Marriage Act), which is the federal law stating that (1) that marriage is between a man and a woman only and (2) each state and the federal government do not have to recognize legally-valid gay marriages from them gay-loving states like Iowa.

Massachusetts fired a shot across the bow of DOMA today, by challenging its constitutionality in federal court:

The lawsuit questions the constitutionality of Section 3 of the law, which defines the word "marriage" for the purpose of federal law as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife."

In doing so, it prevents same-sex partners from enjoying a wide range of protections, ranging from employment and retirement benefits, insurance coverage and Social Security payments.

[The lawsuit] does not challenge the constitutionality of Section 2, which provides that states are not required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

The suit alleges that the law violates the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, which reserves to the states all powers except those granted to the federal government. It also alleges that the law violates Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, which limits the power of Congress to attach conditions to the receipt of federal funds.

Constitutionally speaking, the Massachusetts lawsuit should be a no-brainer.  Marriage is, and has always been, a creature of state law.  Each state, for example, possesses the power to decide the legal age at which people can be married.  They have their own divorce laws.  Quite simply, prior to DOMA, there simply did not exist "marriage law" at the federal level, and the principles of federalism embodied in the Tenth Amendment preserve those powers to the states.

There are some countering arguments, but none of them trump the Tenth Amendment.

Obama, the former constitutional law professor, knows this, I am sure.  But sadly, Obama the politician is AWOL here.  We'll see how this plays out.