On March 27 the U.S. Supreme Court finished up two days devoted to cases brought by homosexual couples against a pair of marriage protections laws, considering arguments against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman for purposes of federal transactions. The main question before the High Court is whether federal law should ban homosexual couples from enjoying the benefits derived from federal laws that heretofore have only applied to traditional married couples. Currently marital status is an issue in more than 1,100 federal statutes and rules impacting such matters as estate taxes, social security survivor benefits, and even health insurance for federal employees.
The DOMA challenge before the Supreme Court came from New York resident Edie Windsor, who was forced to pay more than $300,000 in estate taxes following the death of her lesbian partner of 44 years. A traditional married couple would have been free of the tax burden. American University Law professor Stephen Vladeck framed the core issue for CBN News: “Can the federal government deny to those legally married [same-sex] couples benefits that would be available to heterosexual couples?”
Over the past couple of years President Obama established himself as a close ally of the homosexual lobby and its aggressive efforts to dismantle laws limiting same-sex couples. While his administration's Department of Justice should be leading the defense of DOMA, in February 2011 Obama ordered Attorney General Eric Holder to halt all federal defense of the measure, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. In explaining the Obama administration's decision to renege on its responsibility to defend the law, Holder told reporters that “much of the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since Congress passed DOMA. The Supreme Court has ruled that laws criminalizing homosexual conduct are unconstitutional. Congress has repealed the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Several lower courts have ruled DOMA itself to be unconstitutional.” Obama's abandonment prompted conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives to step forward to provide a defense in the cases challenging DOMA.
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Photo of U.S. Supreme Court building