By Kevin Aherne
The 1996 Defense of Marriage Act defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Due to this language, married gay couples have been denied the right to more than 1000 federal benefits that were accessible to married heterosexual couples; but today's Supreme Court ruling eliminates that bureaucratic inequity.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to renounce the controversial act that has restricted the basic civil rights of millions of same-sex couples for nearly twenty years. Citing the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, DOMA was deemed to be unconstitutional by a small majority. Conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy proved to be the deciding swing vote, as he tip-toed party lines by addressing the topic on state rights grounds, rather than equality.
While the downfall of DOMA by no means ends the hardships and social difficulties that many same-sex couples and gay individuals face, it is a major step forward. The issue now shifts to the individual states, as this ruling merely ends the prohibition of federal benefits, and eliminates same-sex marriage issues from federal jurisdiction.
The next hurdle facing same-sex couples involves state philosophy on recognition of marriage. The legality of marriage may be determined differently in each state. While some may use "state of celebration," others may use "state of residence" as the determining factor. Regardless of its immediate impact, today's decision opens the door for same-sex couples to be treated equally under federal law, and that is a very good thing... for me, for you, and for America.