Magazine article National NOW Times

Radical Right Ignores Courts on Marriage Rights, Attempts to Write Discrimination into U.S. Constitution

Magazine article National NOW Times

Radical Right Ignores Courts on Marriage Rights, Attempts to Write Discrimination into U.S. Constitution

Article excerpt

On Nov. 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Court made history by ruling that same- and opposite-sex couples are entitled to equal marriage rights under the Massachusetts State Constitution. The decision in Goodridge et al. v. Department of Public Health defined civil marriage in Massachusetts as, "The voluntary union of two persons as spouses, to the exclusion of all others." The court allowed the state legislature 180 days to begin carrying out the ruling.

This unprecedented judgment is a substantial victory in the fight for human rights for all. "The right to civil marriage for samesex couples is an essential step on the road to full equality," said NOW President Kim Gandy. "Heterosexual married couples are afforded more than a thousand legal protections and benefits in state and federal law which are inaccessible to committed samesex couples."

The November ruling will allow same-sex couples who marry in Massachusetts to visit each other in the hospital, make important health care and financial decisions for one another, file joint state tax returns and receive hundreds of other state protections.

"Marriage is a legal issue, not an ideological playground. It's not about what you be lieve or don't believe-this is about what is fair and just," Gandy said. "Activists from coast to coast are counting on Massachusetts lawmakers to act in accordance with their supreme court and begin to dismantle the heterosexual monopoly on marriage."

While the Massachusetts ruling was aclear victory for human rights, threats to freedom at the federal level loom ominously.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), passed in 1996 and signed by Bill Clinton, defined marriage as "the legal union between one man and one woman," and asserted that states are not required to recognize any same-sex marriage performed in another state. Nevertheless, because of the recent high profile court decisions, including Lawrence v. Texas, which repealed existing Texas antisodomy laws, the political right wing has taken action to further limit civil rights and autonomy for gay and lesbian individuals.

On Nov. 25, just prior to the adjournment of the Senate, five republican Senators led by Wayne Allard, R-CoIo., introduced a bill that, if passed, will begin the process of amending the U.S. Constitution to permanently reject marriage as a fundamental legal and human right that extends to same-sex couples. The exact language, as agreed upon by both the Senate and House, is as follows:

Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the Constitution of any State, nor State or Federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon untnarried couples or groups. …

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