“DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others.” ~ Justice Anthony Kennedy, US v. Windsor (Decided June 26, 2013)
These are times for the KGBT community to celebrate. However, it is still not the time to be, or to feel, satisfied. Human rights were victorious in one of the battles. However, the war for equality is not over yet. Although on June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court of United States struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) for being a violation to the equal protection and due process guaranteed by the United States Constitution, which made unconstitutional the portion of the law that barred the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in states where they were legal, the Congress has not yet pass a Respect for Marriage Act (H.R. 2523, S. 1236, (RMA)), which means that the ruling had no direct impact on same-sex marriage recognition in states where it is banned, and because the part of the act that permits states to refuse to recognize gay marriages performed in other states was not addressed, access to marriage is still unequal in United States.
Even though we can’t still say that all the people of this nation enjoy of equal access to marriage and of marriage equality, there is no doubt that the Supreme Court ruling is to be considered as a huge step towards complete equality that will produce changes, not only on the lives of gay couples living in states where their marriages are recognized, but also in states where they are not. This ruling will produce a domino effect that would eventually create a recognition, de jure in some states and de facto in others, of same-sex marriages across United States. At the same time, the ruling shows how the states’ police powers over domestic issues should remain untouched and demonstrates that the people of this democracy will not tolerate any type of violations to our federalism scheme from the part of the Congress, not even when it comes to matters that would dictate how to conduct our lives and how to build our society, as it tried to do by imposing a de facto and unilateral definition of marriage to be applied indistinctively across the nation.
The people of this nation have made their voices to be heard, the Supreme Court already took the first step, and now, is time for the Congress to take the next step. According to a survey made by the PEW Research Center in May, for the first time in United States, more than half (51%) of Americans favored allowing gay men and lesbians to marry, and 72% percent of Americans, regardless of whether they themselves favor or oppose same-sex marriage, believe that legal recognition of same-sex marriage is inevitable. However, there are still 35 states in United States, which ban on same-sex marriages is still intact. Therefore, in the same way that the Congress should not, and does not, have the power to interfere in domestic issues, such as marriage, and create unilateral and arbitrary definitions to be applied indistinctively across the nation, the Congress should also provide the necessary tools to guarantee that all states will respect and will deem valid all same-sex marriages, in the same way as if they were heterosexual marriages, as long as they were validly celebrated in another state or place. In this sense, the approval of the RMA, Congress will make sure that all married couples, in all 50 states, and of any gender composition, enjoy equal rights and equal benefits, and equal protections, under federal law. Only then, we would be able to say that access to marriage is equal in United States and we would therefore be able to add United States to the growing list of states around the world that are legalizing same-sex marriage, and are therefore treating all its citizens equally.