Friday, June 14, 2013

Even if DOMA Falls, Many Gay Couples Will Remain Second Class Citizens

With more and more people waiting for the Supreme Court's rulings in Hollingsworth v. Perry (the Prop 8 case) and United States v. Windsor (the DOMA case), increasing analysis indicates that absent a nationwide ruling for gay marriage, a striking down of DOMA alone will leave many same sex couples screwed.  We will remain second class citizens unless we emigrate from our home states to states that recognize full gay marriage.  That, of course, is precisely the goal of hate groups like Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage which seek to keep discrimination and mistreatment of LGBT citizens alive and well as long as possible.  They don't give a damn about "protecting marriage."  No, it's all about keeping gays inferior under the law.  A piece in the New York Times reviews the limited impact that the striking down of DOMA will have for most of us at least unless and until federal regulations and in some cases legislation is rewritten.  Here are highlights:

A Supreme Court ruling this month that could overturn the ban on federal benefits for same-sex couples is presenting the Obama administration with a series of complicated and politically sensitive decisions: how aggressively to overhaul references to marriage throughout the many volumes that lay out the laws of the United States.

The decisions could affect Social Security checks, immigration laws and military benefits for same-sex couples, among other issues, with the outcomes based on whether the couples live in a state that allows them to marry. 

Gay rights advocates, aware that a Supreme Court ruling that overturns the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act would be the beginning of their push to have the federal government recognize same-sex marriage, are urging White House officials to plan to modify hundreds of mentions of marriage throughout federal statutes and regulations.

If the justices do strike it down, they will sweep aside a law that has for years prohibited gay couples from receiving a vast array of federal benefits that married couples take for granted. But whether gay couples actually get those benefits would depend on where they live — and how vigorously President Obama seeks to change the legal language that determines whether a couple is married in the eyes of the federal government. 

For Mr. Obama, who appears eager to have his legacy defined in part by the advancement of civil rights for gay Americans, his administration’s actions after the ruling may be as important as the ruling itself.

Activists, however, are warning gay couples not to expect that federal benefits would arrive immediately, because government agencies vary widely in how they determine whether a couple is legally married. 

Some federal agencies, like the I.R.S. and the Social Security Administration, make that determination by looking to the state where a couple lives. Even with the 1996 law overturned, those agencies would deny benefits to gay couples who live in one of the 38 states that do not allow same-sex marriage.

Other agencies, like the Defense Department, already base their decision on the location of a couple’s wedding, regardless of where the couple lives now. The same-sex spouse of a service member would get health care benefits no matter where the couple lives, as long as the two married in one of the 12 states where same-sex marriage is legal. 

“Without sweeping decisions from the court, we’ll continue to have a patchwork across the country that denies all families equal protection,” Mr. Sainz said. “We are going to fight for full equality in all 50 states, including marriage.” 

It's not encouraging.  Those of us in Virginia - one of the most anti-gay states in America - will still be largely screwed and not equal citizens.  And should the GOP statewide ticket of gay haters be elected in November, an already bad situation will become far worse.  As I've said before, if family circumstances were different, I'd leave Virginia in a hear beat.

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