The controversial Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has taken another hit, this time in Connecticut. As decided by Judge Vanessa L. Bryant of the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, her state now joins California, Massachusetts, and New York in ruling Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional. This serves as another push for the Supreme Court to render a final verdict on DOMA’s status as discriminatory or not in accordance with the Equal Protection Clause. Richard C. Milstein and Jeffrey T. Cook of the Huffington Post speculate that the Supreme Court may deal with this issue sometime next year, and when the final decision comes, it will be a landmark in the battle for equitable marriage rights.
Section 3 of DOMA, in particular, as explained by Lyle Denniston of the SCOTUSblog, denies “any federal benefit to a same-sex couple, even if the spouses were legally married under state law.” Therefore, the striking down of Section 3 will finally give married same-sex couples access to the privileges and rights their opposite-sex counterparts receive from the federal government. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) states that there are over “1,100 benefits and protections” associated with federally-recognize marriage. That is a lot to be deprived of numerically speaking, and when considering how much sharing health care or receiving spousal Social Security benefits could mean to a partner in need, said benefits take on immeasurable importance. Extending these rights would be a testament of our government’s aim of secularism and equal treatment of its citizenry, making it increasingly apparent that the promotion of the rights of one type of couple on the grounds of sex-pairing over another is unjust and unfair.
Additionally, it is important to note that striking down Section 3 will not deprive states of their right to administer marriage within their jurisdiction. Section 3, if passed in court, will simply allow individuals who do possess a marriage license within a state that recognizes it access to federal marriage rights. Thus, this is not a huge, federal compulsion upon the states, preserving the right to legislate their jurisdictions as they see fit (to an extent of course). Although the future of marriage equality remains murky, Connecticut helped take a step toward equity and that is a principle our country seriously benefits from.