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The term 'marriage' has been used in the United states to mean a legal union between a man and a woman as the husband and wife respectively, and the term 'spouse' applies to a person of the opposite sex either a husband or a wife. The Marriage law in U.S has historically been a matter left to the state; the federal law denies any recognition of them by the federal government.
The united States constitution, categorically states there should be no State, no territory, or possession of the United States that shall be required to give the effects to the public act, record, or the judicial proceedings for the territory, state or the possession of the United States , to respect a relationship between same sex persons and be given the treatment as a marriage under the laws passed by such other State, the territory or the possession of the U.S, or the right or the claim arising from such relationships.
Defense of Marriage Act
This act states that no state is required to give the effect to any law of the other state in reference to the marriage by a same sex couple. For the purposes of the Federal law it gives the definitions for the key words which are marriage and spouse.
The congress has been given the powers by the constitution of the United States under this bill to allow all the states to make individual decide as to whether to allow same sex marriage or not (Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S constitution).This was made possible after the case in which the Hawaii state, gave the sanctions to the same sex marriage. As a result the congress was invoked to exercise its authority under the constitution by declaring what effect the judicial legislations of one state shall have over the other states. Thus the Federal law denies the benefits to the same sex marriage; these benefits may include those that are related to the social security, the survivorship benefits and the inheritance.
The DOMA bill also makes it explicitly under the federal law that marriage is the legal union between a man as the husband and a woman as the wife. According to Ginsberg (2005) the United States Supreme Court speaks of the holy estate of matrimony where a man and a woman are in union. When dealing with spouses, the DOMA definitions makes sure that the subsequent definitions of the word spouse as used by the federal law refers to the partner of the opposite sex. This is contrary to the definitions offered by the social security law which provides for so many options.
DOMA has come a long way, at one point it was given a lot of challenge by the authorities which included the Laurence Tribe that challenged the constitutionality of the DOMA, basing on the faith and credit clauses which allows the state to recognize the laws practiced by other states. Some of the states have recognized the civil unions that represent the same-sex relationships, by considering such unions as the equivalent to the traditional marriage between a man and a woman. However there are states such as Nevada which have the domestic partnerships in place that grants same-sex relationships the marital benefits that the states can bestow on the opposite sex married couples. However, there are the procedural differences in relation to age difference limitations whereby many of this states allow the legal age for this kind of relation to be16 and above, while the legal age that is allowed for one to enter into the domestic partnership is set at 18, the residential requirements for this union does not allow the individuals to live in the same apartment with their spouses, the domestic partnership have the provision to share the residence.
However, the majority of the states, even those that have provided for the same benefits for same-sex unions, have the restrictions concerning the recognition of the traditional marriage unions between one man and one woman in state law. In most cases this states have some laws which defines the marriage, these laws have been formulated as an amendment to the individual state constitution to that effect. The states have enacted the constitutional amendments that define the marriage as the union between a man and a woman. (Matthew, 2000)
The court action that has taken place challenging the constitutionality of DOMA
In early 2004, two gay men Arthur Smelt and his mate Christopher Hammer launched a lawsuit against the Orange County in the California federal court for allegedly denying issuing them with the marriage license. The Orange district court ruled in favor of the county that the couple did a concrete reason to challenge the constitution as established under Section 2 of DOMA and the judge rejected this suit which sought to challenge the constitutionality of the Section 3. Therefore in mid 2006, the U. S Court of Appeals ruled out the law suit, the couple proceeded to appeal, but in October 2006 the United States Supreme Court nullified the couple's appeal. On March 9, 2009, still the same couple managed to legally marry in California, and filed another lawsuit which sought to challenge the constitutionality of the DOMA and the California's Proposition, the District Judge by then David Carter dismissed the case , claiming that the couple had not applied for any federal benefits and hence did not have the ground to launch their claim.
A judge for the 9th circuit united states court of appeal, called Stephen Reinhardt declared the DOMA as being unconstitutional in one of the employment dispute resolution tribunal, in this dispute, the federal government denied granting the spousal benefits to Tony Sears, who was the alleged husband to the deputy federal public defender called Brad Levenson According to the application of the law Levenson, as the one of the employees of the federal judiciary, was not allowed to sue his employer in the federal court. Any employment disputes were to be handled at the employment dispute resolution tribunals where the federal judge was allowed to hear the dispute in the capacity of the dispute resolution official. This happened in 2009. (Seelye, 2010)
In another incident Karen Golinski, a teenage employee of the Ninth Circuit Court of the Appeals, allegedly applied for the health benefits for her spouse. She was denied the application; she proceeded on and filed her complaint in the Ninth Circuit's Employment Dispute Resolution Plan. The Chief Judge by then, Kozinski categorically ruled in 2009 that she was justified and entitled to the spousal health benefits. However, the personnel management office announced its stand not to comply with the ruling. (Geidner, 2010)
Barely a year later, In January 2010, the Lambda Legal filed the law suit against the federal government in one of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California; this was with respect to the terms of Employment Dispute Resolution Plan. After 14 months later on17/03/2011, the United States District Judge called Jeffrey White dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds of the procedural fault, the judge invited the plaintiffs to try and amend their suit to in order to claim the unconstitutionality of the DOMA especially Section 3.
The First word concerning the change came from the Justice Department. Where the Attorney General Eric Holder made an announcement that President Obama had made the conclusion to the 15-year old Defense of the Marriage Act (DOMA), this was legally indefensible.
This announcement was immediately hailed by the gay rights organizations and but did not go well with the opposing sides. Some of the Democrats in the Congress welcomed the decision, but it drew a lot of criticism from the Republicans. This law was passed in 1996, since then five states in the United States and the District of Columbia have so far approved the gay marriage, and others have lawfully allowed the civil unions. In an Associated Press-National Constitution Center Poll which was conducted last in 2010 it was found out that 52 percent of the Americans hold the opinion that the federal government ought to give the legal recognitions to the marriages between same sex couples.
Thirty of the states in the U.S have made the efforts to constitutional amendments in order to ban the gay marriage. Others have legalized the Same-sex marriage especially in the Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Washington, D.C. (David, 2010)
The White House I its defense framed the President Obama's decision as one that was brought on by the legal deadline in the federal court cases which challenged the constitutionality of the law that defined marriage as the union only between a man and a woman. During the December, 2010 news conference, President Obama stated that his position on the gay marriage was under constant evolution. He completely opposes the same sex marriages but somehow supports the civil unions for the gay and the lesbian couples. The Marriage law in the United States has been a historical matter which is left to the states, but lately the federal law bars some related laws from being recognized by the federal government.