The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law enacted in 1996, has led to federal discrimination against thousands of Americans.
Political developments that were going on back then and campaign considerations for the re-election of former President Clinton led him to sign a law that, despite its pretentious name, did not defend marriage itself. Its only purpose was to restrict rights.
It was unnecessary, and unusual, for the federal government to create an official definition of marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman. This definition limited the interpretation of almost 1,100 federal laws that were previously in effect without this clarification.
In practice, same-sex couples have been denied more than 1,000 federal benefits that are offered to heterosexual couples and range from estate taxes to health insurance for veterans.
In addition, DOMA imposed obstacles to health insurance coverage for gay couples as well as retirement benefits. This made benefits management more complex for a private sector interested in having a diverse, professional workforce without taking into account a person’s sexual preferences.
The purpose of the law was not to defend marriage, which is threatened, at any rate, by infidelity and divorce. Its objective was to prevent states from accepting a definition that includes same-sex couples.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on the validity of California’s Proposition 8 and DOMA. In both cases, although in different ways, the goal was to impose moral values in the form of laws to discriminate against those who do not share those ideas. This is unfair. Both the ballot initiative and DOMA must be overturned.