Thursday, July 9, 2009

Massachusetts Challenges DOMA and a Bit on Gay Marriage

Give the Massachusetts Attorney General a big hand for having the nerve to take on the Defense of Marriag eAct. This from her press release, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley Files Constitutional Challenge to Federal Defense of Marriage Act:

���Today, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts takes an important step toward ensuring equality and fairness for its citizens and maintaining our authority as a sovereign state,��� said Attorney General Coakley. ���DOMA affects residents of Massachusetts in very real and very negative ways by depriving access to important economic safety nets and other protections that couples count on when they marry and that help them to take care of one another and their families. DOMA also directly and fundamentally interferes with Massachusetts���s right as a state sovereign to determine the marital status of its residents.���

The Commonwealth���s complaint alleges that Section 3 of DOMA unlawfully creates separate and unequal categories of married individuals in Massachusetts, due to the fact that only different-sex married couples are considered married under federal law. Among other things, DOMA prohibits married individuals in same-sex relationships from taking advantage of the ability to file a joint federal tax return, Social Security survivor benefits, guaranteed leave from work to care for sick spouses, flexible spending accounts for medical expenses of spouses, and gift tax and estate tax exemptions for spouses. These rights and protections affect all facets of life from the workplace to healthcare to retirement, and every married person is affected significantly by these laws.

The Attorney General���s Office further contends that Section 3 of DOMA unlawfully requires Massachusetts to disregard valid marriages in its implementation of federally funded programs. The complaint focuses specifically on two programs, MassHealth and veterans��� cemeteries.

���It is unconstitutional for the federal government to discriminate, as it does because of DOMA���s restrictive definition of marriage. It is also unconstitutional for the federal government to decide who is married and to create a system of first- and second-class marriages. The federal government cannot require states, such as Massachusetts, to further the discrimination through federal programs, either. The time has come for this injustice to end.���

The complaint specifically highlights two programs in Massachusetts that are impacted by DOMA. The two programs are MassHealth, the Commonwealth���s Medicaid program which offers healthcare coverage to low- and moderate-income residents of Massachusetts, and the burial of Massachusetts veterans and their spouses at cemeteries owned and operated by the Massachusetts Department of Veterans��� Services (DVS).
Here is also another press release, although I must ask if people really think this is news? Study shows gay couples want legal rights, regardless of marriage,
New research from North Carolina State University shows that gay and lesbian couples are forming long-term, committed relationships, even in the absence of the right to marry. However, couples surveyed for the study overwhelmingly said they would get married if they could in order to secure legal rights – such as retirement and healthcare benefits.

"Our study indicates that marriage is both more and less important to gay and lesbian couples in long-term relationships than was perhaps previously understood – more important in terms of the legal rights it conveys, but less important as a symbol of commitment," says study co-author Dr. Sinikka Elliott, an assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at NC State. "This research underscores the need for legal protections and rights for all couples."

The study found that, because these gay and lesbian couples could not marry in their state, there was no defining moment demarcating when they became "committed" in their own eyes or in the eyes of others. Instead, their commitment revealed itself over time, with different people having different ideas as to when a relationship became "committed." Elliott explains that this shows there are multiple ways that couples can form lasting, committed relationships outside the institution of marriage.


Randy said...

Sam... I'm sure there are tons more people in Indiana that are against same sex marriages and allowing existing ones to benefit from it. I don't think many will be applauding.

Sam Hasler said...

I suspect that Hoosiers are more tolerant than what some give them credit. But my point was not local at all unless it someone wants to take it as an some sort of oblique dig at our AG's office.