Eleveld Op-Ed In The Washington Post: Next Up For Obama: Marriage Equality For Gay Americans
January 20, 2011 10:02 pm ET by Equality Matters staff
Next up for Obama: Marriage equality for gay Americans
Less than a month after President Obama repealed "don't ask, don't tell," his Justice Department filed its latest brief defending the so-calledDefense of Marriage Act - the law that makes gay Americans second-class citizens by outlawing federal recognition of their legal marriages.
This action underscores the point that the battle over gay rights is just beginning.
There is a serious flaw in the president's position of viewing civil unions as a path to giving same-sex couples equal relationship recognition: The federal government does not recognize civil unions for the purposes of spousal benefits. In fact, no legislation to formalize civil unions exists at the federal level.
That means that advocates of civil unions, Obama included, are suggesting for lesbian and gay couples a status for which the federal government has no definition and no frame of reference within its codes, and one that provides no path to legal recognition.
Meanwhile, his administration continues to defend a law that expressly prohibits the federal government from honoring same-sex marriages, which are legal in five states and the District of Columbia.
With equality legislation stalled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, one of the most significant advances Obama can make between now and his 2012 reelection campaign is to evolve fully on marriage equality.
The repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" was a turning point in the marriage discussion. It poses a major challenge and an opportunity for the president.
While he, like many Americans, grapples with the fact that civil unions provide no remedy for gay taxpayers with regard to federal spousal benefits, he has enlisted the most powerful lobby in the nation to work on behalf of gay rights - the U.S. military.
Once repeal is implemented, the military will begin to move toward eradicating the inequalities endured by gay service members.
Indeed, 67 percent of service members told the Pentagon's study group that lifting the ban would have a positive effect or no effect at all on readiness - surely those service members will care that their comrades in arms get equal treatment. I would bet they will insist on it.