DOMA vote one step in long journey

Robert Houk • Jul 1, 2013 at 9:14 AM

Much has been written and spoken in the last few days regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a major portion of the Defense of Marriage Act. Many pundits have used the word “step” in their analysis.Gay rights activists called the decision a promising step towards legitimizing same-sex marriages nationwide. Social conservatives and religious devotees have decried the ruling as a step closer to the end times. No doubt artists at Chick Publications, the California company known for its cleverly drawn but hideously inappropriate religious tracts, have already produced a new comic depicting the five justices who struck down DOMA as snarling demons with one foot already in hell.Many Democrats have been quick to praise the Supreme Court’s ruling as an important step in recognizing gay marriage, while most Republicans call it a disappointing overreach of judicial oversight. In Tennessee, Congressman Jim Cooper, D-5th District, told the Associated Press: “Equality under the law should apply to all Americans, and now we’re one step closer toward fulfilling this promise.”Leaders of the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus and Tennessee Young Democrats issued separate statements praising the DOMA decision. “Most Tennesseans agree that couples in a loving and committed relationship deserve to be treated equally,” said state Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, referring to a recent Vanderbilt University poll that she believes shows a plurality of Tennesseans (49 percent) now favor full marriage rights or civil union protections for gay couples.Where were those respondents in 2006 when a whopping 81 percent of the voters of this state approved a constitutional amendment to ban the recognition of same-sex marriages in Tennessee?High-ranking leaders of the GOP in Tennessee didn’t bother to officially comment on the Supreme Court’s ruling for one simple reason: It doesn’t legitimize gay marriage in this state.The ruling does, however, give gay couples married in one of the 12 states and in the District of Columbia, where same-sex marriages are legal, equal standing with heterosexual couples under federal law. Legal experts say gay couples will be able to file joint federal income returns, take advantage of the Family and Medical Leave Act and enjoy other federal marriage benefits now extended to straight couples.Hedy Weinberg, the executive director of the ACLU in Tennessee, said the DOMA ruling is “truly historic” for all same-sex couples, including those who live here in Tennessee.“While the Tennessee Constitution prohibits same-sex couples from marrying in this state, striking down DOMA means that for those same-sex couples who married elsewhere, the federal government should now recognize their marriage,” Weinberg said.The ACLU director said last week gutting DOMA was “an important step forward in achieving equality for all Tennesseans.” Sadly, it’s just one step. Many more steps will have to be taken before the journey is complete.Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at rhouk@johnsoncitypress.com.

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