DOMA Section 2: States Still Don't Have to Recognize Gay Marriages

ByGabriel Grand

Despite the Supreme Court's ruling in United States v. Windsor on Wednesday morning, granted full marriage benefits to same-sex married couples, the controversial Section 2 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act still stands.

Section 2, which was not considered by the Supreme Court in the Windsor case, declares that states and territories of the United States have the right to deny recognition of same-sex marriages that originated in other states or territories.

Same-sex couples face several major problems that arise from Section 2 of DOMA. If a same-sex couple is married in Vermont, for example, and moves to Pennsylvania, their marriage is no longer valid.

That means that they will no longer enjoy the benefits of myriad federal tax deductions and other marriage-related federal institutions. Their marital status is effectively reduced to, as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg put it, "skim milk marriage."

Aside from being inherently unequal, having a marital status that varies with geographical location is a legal headache.

There's a good reason why the federal government likes to set national standards in the first place. Imagine if your driver's license was valid in Massachussetts but not in Connecticut; as you drove along Route 91, you'd switch from being a legal driver to an illegal one.

While same-sex couples won a major victory at the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning, it's clear that gay marriage still has a long way to go before it is unanimously recognized in America. It's equally clear that Section 2 of DOMA stands in the way of this goal.