I'm Married in Massachusetts—But Am I Married in the United States?

Oh, gosh, it's so confusing. I'm married when I visit my stepson's school. I'm not married when I file federal taxes. I'm married when I fill out forms at the doctor's office. I'm not married when I'm visiting my brother in Texas. Or am I?

Yes, I do have a sense of humor about it, especially this morning. Conservative federal judge Michael Boudin—who served in Ronald Reagan's Justice Department, and was appointed to the First Circuit by George H.W. Bush—has written an extremely cautious opinion (for a unanimous court) striking down the Defense of Marriage Act's Section 3, which says that for federal purposes, marriage is between one man and one woman. Boudin writes repeatedly that the precedents are tricky and the final decision will have to come from SCOTUS--but in his mind, signs point to yes for my marriage. 

All the judges think DOMA is indefensible, or at least, that section 3 is. There was Judge Tauro's rhetorically soaring decision in this particular set of cases, Gill  v. OPM and Massachusetts v. U.S. Dept. of Public Health, which today's decision upholds. There was last year's federal trial court decision in Golinski v. OPM, out in California. There was last week's federal trial court decision in Dragovich v. U.S. Dept. of the Treasury. DOMA just does not have a good batting record. But today's decision is the first to reach an appeals court—and so it's especially cheery to read.

This is exactly what Obama was talking about, two weeks ago, when he said that the federal government should let the states work through marriage themselves. Damn straight (if you'll pardon the joke)! Let my state marry me. Let me be married at home and in my country. And if SCOTUS agrees with these (so far) unanimous lower-court judges in saying that the United States has to recognize whatever marriages states have made, I'm guessing that it won't be long before the federal courts will, then, start pecking away at DOMA's Section 2, which allows states to refuse to recognize other states' same-sex marriages. In other words, if I'm married in Massachusetts, I'll also be married the United States. And if I'm married in the United States, I will also be married in Texas. 

In five years—ten at the most—same-sex couples will be married, period. Marital status won't shift based on what state we happen to be in. Oh, Tigger's tail is thumping happily today!

 

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