Signing Ohio’s Defense of Marriage
Act into law Friday, Republican Gov. Bob Taft approved what is to
date the most extreme legislation pertaining to gay marriage. Under
the new law, Ohio not only rules gay marriage to be “against
the strong public policy of the state,” but also denies
marital benefits to all unmarried partners of state employees
— both homosexual and heterosexual. Without irony, Taft
expressed hope that the law would send a positive message about the
value of marriage. The state’s denouncement of gay marriage
dilutes more supportive legal measures of Vermont and
Massachusetts, and is a direction the nation should not follow.

Laura Wong

This legislation comes in the midst of a political firestorm
throughout the nation, sparked by court rulings in several states.
Vermont’s endorsement of “civil unions” —
marriage in all but name — was trumped by a Massachusetts
Supreme Court ruling in November which held that gay couples are
entitled to nothing short of full recognition of their right to
marry. The ruling is a bold step, despite the unfortunate backlash
it created.

The federal government approved the Defense of Marriage Act in
1996, granting states the right to ignore gay marriages conducted
legally in any other states that permit it. Despite the federal
law, intolerant leaders in 38 states — most recently Ohio
— passed their versions of the act in their own states,
fearing a federal court will one day overturn national policy, and
gay marriage will subsequently be thrust upon them.Further
complicating the issue, President Bush warned in his State of the
Union address that what he perceives to be judicial activism would
be met with a Constitutional amendment, should the U.S. Supreme
Court rule in favor of gay marriage. Making gay marriage a matter
of Constitutional regulation — on par with the abolition of
slavery, the right to vote and the right to due process —
Bush has not only demonstrated a fundamental disrespect for the
equal rights of all Americans, but has also once again shown
himself to be completely lacking compassion.

Other Republican leaders have shown the same poor character.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee endorsed a
Constitutional amendment against gay marriage in June and has been
promoting it tirelessly. In Michigan, where a Defense of Marriage
Act has been on the books since the 1990s, state Sen. Alan Cropsey
(R-DeWitt) has proposed an amendment to the state constitution to
essentially ban gay marriage. This amendment, pending a close vote
in the Michigan House of Representatives, could be placed before
voters in the November election.

America will not be truly equal until gay couples are no longer
treated as a second class under the law. There is no excuse for
legal discrimination or for the behavior of our elected
leadership.

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