On Wednesday, June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United States voted 5-4 to repeal the Defense Of Marriage Act. DOMA, a federal act that defined marriage as between one man and one woman, was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton in September 1996.
Its repeal opened the floodgates for same-sex couples to get married, although individual states will continue to decide whether to recognize same-sex marriage. The federal government will recognize the marriages of the same-sex couples who choose to marry within states that have legalized same-sex marriage, opening federal benefits to those couples.
This is an important mark for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in moving toward no longer being considered second class citizens.
One of the benefits of the DOMA repeal is the immigration reform it will bring. Same-sex couples in bi-national relationships will now be able to sponsor their partners, as well as live in the same countries as their partners. According to a June 29 Huffington Post article by Charlene Obernauer, there are 40,000 same-sex bi-national couples living in the U.S. “Even immigration reform would not have had this impact on GLBT immigrants,” the article states.
This is important for same-sex couples who are in love with people who don’t currently have citizenship in the particular country they are living in. Those with citizenship, particularly in the United States, will now be able to sponsor their partner for a green card and partners can be granted citizenship. This is crucial for bi-national couples currently living in fear of being separated due to potential deportation.
Another benefit of the repeal of DOMA is that it no longer puts an additional financial burden on businesses that have historically welcomed and created an all-inclusive workplace for all people, including members of the LGBT community. Upon the repeal of DOMA the money paid in additional taxes will be funneled back into those businesses who had all-inclusive policies from the beginning. According to a June 26 Forbes article by Anna Secino, “Google, Microsoft and Starbucks are among the 97 corporations included as members within the Business Coalition for DOMA Repeal, which voiced the belief that DOMA unfairly targeted same-sex couples, putting them at a financial disadvantage and, on a larger scale, leading to decreased productivity and thwarted recruitment efforts.”
Upon the repeal of DOMA, the concept of “grossing up,” a practice whereby employers reimbursed LGBT employees for the taxes paid on some portion of their income, will be diminished or even eliminated. Companies who were forced to make same-sex employees pay additional taxes have decided to reimburse these couples to help with employee retention. They filed a legal brief in 2011, writing that DOMA “forces us to discriminate against a class of our lawfully-married employees, upon whose welfare and morale our own success in part depends.”
The repeal of DOMA also opens up thousands of federal benefits to same-sex married couples. According to a June 26 NBC article by Daniel Arkin, federal benefits opened up to same-sex married couples include military married spousal benefits, military veterans’ benefits, estate tax exemptions, survivor benefits, tax-free employee health insurance, emergency leave and many different IRS perks. This is important for same-sex couples who have been married for years and whose places of employment haven’t recognized their partners as spouses entitled to benefits. Even though assimilation isn’t what all same-sex couples aspire to, it is still important for others to have the ability to receive benefits and equality.
Currently, Washington, D.C. and 12 other states recognize same-sex marriage: Iowa, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. With the recent decision of the Supreme Court to uphold the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision on Proposition 8, California will also re-legalize same-sex marriage.
Same-sex couples who chose to marry within these 13 states will be granted federal benefits from their employers. Currently, as someone who is planning to get married now that DOMA is repealed, I am grateful to hear that my marriage will be federally recognized. It’s important to me to be a part of a society that on some level will recognize that I don’t have to love someone of the opposite sex to be truly in love. The discussion of this significant event encompasses much more than the points that were brought up in this article, but it’s important to see that the repeal of DOMA will have many benefits for the LGBT community and American society.
Jakki Thompson is a junior in journalism and mass communications and American ethnic studies. Please send comments to [email protected]