Wednesday, June 26, 2013

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Same Gender Marriage Now Legal in US, No

by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths


In politics and social commentary, generalities rule the day.  But on legal issues (this applies to Jewish religious rulings as well), the details matter.

Today the United States Supreme Court, which by the way has some Jewish members, ruled on whether the Defense of (Traditional) Marriage Act, a national law passed in 1996, was constitutional (legal).  The ruling was it is not, and the law, being illegal, is now erased.

The purpose of the law was to prevent same-gender couples who “marry” or have a legal partnership, in States that allow it, from receiving national (federal) recognition and rights associated with married couples.  Such rights include details of tax filing, taxes on inheritance, visitation rights in federal prisons, and survivor benefits for partners of military members (among others).

The Supreme Court ruled that deciding on what’s a legal marriage is an authority that only States have, not the national (federal) government.  And therefore there cannot be a national law stating one kind of marriage allowed by a State is recognized and another kind isn’t – since the national government doesn’t have the authority to make decisions about marriage and deciding between different kinds also violates equal rights provisions.

The result is: there is NO national position on same gender marriage in the United States.  Rather, there are 50 individual State positions, and each State can make any decision it’s voters or elected officials want.

37 of the 50 U.S. States have made same gender marriage illegal.  7 by passing a law (which means any future elected officials can simply reverse the law), and 30 by State constitutional amendments (meaning reversing it will either require a state-wide vote or a super-majority of elected officials).

13 U.S. States have legalized same gender marriage: Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and California —as well as the District of Columbia and five Native American tribal zones.

In additional, the change in the national position means if someone has a legally recognized relationship from one State and lives in another, or arrives from another (recognized treaty) country with a legal-in-that-country same-gender marriage, the national government will recognize it even if the local State does not. 

BUT the ruling also means the national government CANNOT force any State to recognize these relationships.  Such decisions are PURELY and EXCLUSIVELY up to each individual U.S. State.

For people in countries where there is not a division of authority between the national and state or local governments, this may seem strange.  But in the U.S., each level of government is specifically constrained to areas of authority (though recent news from the current administration indicates the national government is exceeding it’s authority in a number of areas – but that’s a different discussion.)

Interestingly there are U.S. national laws forbidding the marital practice of polygamy (multiple wives for one husband), and there was major conflict in the 19th century between the U.S. government and Mormon church over the issue.  I would understand today’s Supreme Court ruling to also invalidate such national laws as well, since it ruled the national government can’t make laws differentiating between any State approved form of marriage - allowing any individual U.S. State to permit and legalize polygamy marriages (or polygyny marriages, one wife multiple husbands) and requiring the national government to apply appropriate marriage tax rates, inheritance and visitation benefits – should any individual U.S. State be inclined to pass such laws. 

The point is, this is now a “local” issue in U.S. States, and people with opinions on the morality or permissibility of such should take it up with their State legislators and governor – or consider moving to a State that fits their moral position.

A final note.  The U.S. media, both television and movies, has made a full court press to expose and normalize opinions about same gender relationships for over a decade (or even present them as superior to hetero-normal marriages).  Clearly they’ve been effective.  The media entertainment complex has an agenda and a measurable impact.

Who will be the proponent for “normal” marriages?  For a lifetime commitment?  For both parents, of opposite genders, raising their children in their own home?

Attacking “normal” marriage has consequences, which all of society will pay.

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