I thought back on this last week when a United States District Court declared DOMA’s restrictions unconstitutional. Judge Tauro ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act violates Fifth Amendment protections because " irrational prejudice plainly never constitutes a legitimate government interest.."
We’re not just talking about a violation of the Constitution – DOMA violates our very core principles of civil rights and equal justice under the law.
There are 1,138 provisions in law that use marriage to determine rights and federal benefits. These include Social Security, joint parenting and adoption rights, Medicaid, tax benefits, inheritance rights, next-of-kin rights in emergency situations and with medical decisions, immigration rights, survivor benefits and many more. These thousand injustices have taken an immeasurable toll on loving, committed couples who are routinely forbidden from making hospital visits, or adopting children, or receiving survivor benefits.
And as I’ve seen firsthand, these spouses can even be kept from living together in the same country. For the last two years I have been working with Tim Coco and Junior Oliveira, a married couple from Haverhill, Massachusetts. They married in Massachusetts but Junior is a Brazilian citizen whose legitimate asylum claim was denied in immigration court based on an erroneous and discriminatory ruling. He was forced to return to Brazil, which has the highest hate crime rate against homosexuals in the world. For three years this legally married couple lived half a hemisphere apart because DOMA kept their marriage from being recognized in immigration matters. Their marriage was even used against them. Junior was denied a travel visa to visit his husband because the government argued he didn’t have a compelling interest to return to Brazil and leave Tim. Just last month they were finally reunited through a Humanitarian Parole Visa for Junior based on the persecution he suffered. But this is only a temporary solution – and countless other couples have not been so lucky.
The good news: if the Court’s ruling stands we can finally help Tim and Junior receive a family based visa that they should have been eligible for years ago.
It is widely believed that this ruling will be appealed and that it could make it all the way to the Supreme Court. For the sake of all those who have suffered under DOMA, I hope the Court upholds the decision. Congress made a horrible mistake passing DOMA in 1996, and we’ve lived with the destruction and pain it has caused for the last 14 years. Now it’s time—long past time—to make DOMA history once and for all.