Thursday, May 10, 2012

Marriage

So, big brouhaha today because the President came out and said that he "supports" same-sex marriage, which is at least better than the Vice President saying he "is comfortable" with it.

A part of me understands why it is a big news story (and comes on the heels of the state of North Carolina passing a ballot initiative re-stating the current illegality of same-sex marriage there), but most of me just wants to shrug my shoulders and say "Huh"? Kudos to him for going out on a bit of a limb, although he gets points off for trying to pretend that he didn't always think this and has just been too chicken-shit to say it.

Really, what he does and doesn't support might be newsworthy, but it doesn't actually matter legislatively. What he is willing to do matters greatly, and he is yet to announce any plans to try and do anything. It is really unlikely that he will, either, which is disappointing.

He can't (and he shouldn't) do much about States making their own rules about who can and can't get married. I don't really wanna live in a State that bans gay marriage, but for a variety of reasons, it is important that States have the right to make that restriction. But he absolutely can move that the Federal Government recognize any valid marriage that is executed legally. Whether or not he "supports" gay marriage, it offends me that he is unwilling to support the right of certain States (Massachusetts being the first, but also Iowa, Maryland, California, Connecticut and some others) to make their own contractual law.

Let's take my Sister-in-law as an example. She and her wife are married. They are not in a civil union, they did not have a commitment ceremony...they got married in exactly the same legal way that The Boy and I are. Under a legally valid, recognized, enforceable contract.

Yet, when they file their Income Taxes, they are not allowed to file as Married. Should one of them ever receive Social Security, the other can not be treated as a spouse under survivorship rules. The Federal Government has denied the Constitutionally designated right of the State of Massachusetts to enforce marriage contracts. Yes, bad news to the talking heads on the right...all of those "States rights" arguments that you like to use (and which are often valid)? Well they should apply here, too.

It is also totally up in the air as to whether other States have to recognize marriages that are legally created in Massachusetts or in other States. If there are other examples of States being able to choose which of other States contracts are valid, I am unaware of them...one of our basic rules of law is that valid and legal contracts signed in one State are enforceable in all of the others. Just, apparently, not these ones.

You want a parallel? Well, I am glad you asked, because I have one!!! In 19 States, it is legal to marry your first cousin. In 6, it is sometimes legal (if at least one of you can't reproduce...say what?!?). And in 25, it is illegal. Why is it illegal? Because we think it is icky, that's why!!!

But two cousins who get married in, say, Colorado, will be treated as married if they move to Iowa, despite cousin-marriage being illegal there. And the Federal Government has no problem allowing those people to be treated as married, regardless of where they live. Because that is how legal reciprocity works in this country. Or at least, that is how it is supposed to work.

So, in conclusion, good for the President for at least saying something. But let's not pretend that what he did actually matters...there are very real, tangible laws that he could propose and champion that will matter, and he has yet to choose to do that.

5 comments:

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

Bravo. Very well stated. Whenever states rights and federal rights start to co-mingle, I go from sort of trying to understand it all to be utterly baffled. But, I think you're absolutely right - there is something Obama can do now that he's come out in favor of gay marriage - let's hope he actually acts on it.

A said...

I have nothing to say that you haven't already said. Except that I love how you break these issues down. And the parallel -- perfect!

Mrs. Pancakes said...

Glad I came across your blog!!

Jane226 said...

I love this. I dread election season, because things get so hateful. But hopefully we can finally start forcing our leaders to treat us all equally. Even gross cousin-lovers.

sab said...

I am just catching up on the blog here. But you hit the nail on the head with your cousin marriage analogy. Can you please send this to the NY Times Op-Ed page?