Without that contract, most marriages wouldn’t enjoy the legal benefits that come with saying “I do,” benefits that affect, among other things, taxes, shared bank accounts, property ownership, hospital visitation, parental rights and insurance payments.
The government doesn’t care if your marriage has a religious blessing or is nothing more than a notarized statement administered by the local justice of the peace. Boiled down, the Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday to rule a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional is a cold, hard examination of the concept of civil unions in the United States.
We applaud the court’s decision.
Slowly, yet methodically, the nation is nearing the day when most citizens are free to marry the person they love, man or woman, without the oppressive hand of government telling them otherwise. The court’s DOMA decision represents a landmark in America’s quest for equality.
Yet, nothing about marriage equality in America comes easily. Gay marriage divides Americans into separate groups, often warring in tone, about the Bible’s place in the discussion. That division is not necessarily a South vs. North struggle; adherents of differing opinions are scattered throughout the nation.
But the Deep South being what it is — a region dominated by conservative Americans who hold close to traditional Christian values — makes it the center of opposition to legalized gay marriage. It’s important to note that Wednesday’s decision does not affect Alabama, where gay marriage is not legal.
Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped Alabama’s Republican leadership from reaffirming their stances on gay marriage. Bill Armistead, chairman of the state Republican Party, said the United States “is a nation founded on Christian values and the Bible is very clear on marriage — one man and one woman. Alabama’s state law banning gay marriage will prevent these benefits from being extended in Alabama, but our tax dollars will still go to support a lifestyle that we fundamentally disagree with.”
House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, went a step further. “As long as I am speaker of the House, I will continue working to ensure that the laws on our books reflect the conservative principles and moral beliefs that the majority of Alabamians embrace,” he said.
One joy of U.S. citizenship is the right to hold our own beliefs, be they legal or religious. But in terms of marriage equality, the United States is plodding toward legal fairness for all. Alabama may one day find itself among the few states that think otherwise.