Defense of Marriage Act under scrutiny by Supreme Court

Thaddeus Mast

On Wednesday morning, the Defense of Marriage Act was argued in the Supreme Court. This is a historic step for same-sex couples, as Defense of Marriage Act legally defines marriage as between a man and a woman in more than 1,000 federal laws.

The case, United States v. Windsor, was brought about when Edie Windsor, an 83-year-old woman was denied a refund of $363,000 in federal estate taxes she paid following the death of her partner Thea Spyer in 2009.

She would have been eligible for an estate tax exemption if Spyer had been a man and argues that Defense of Marriage Act’s Section 3 violates her equal protection under the Fifth Amendment.

In 2011, the Obama administration announced that the Department of Justice would no longer defend Defense of Marriage Act. The House Republicans are defending the law instead.

Wednesday’s discussion was focused on legal issues and how the case ended up at the Supreme Court. Tuesday’s discussion of Proposition 8 was focused more on the legality and disputes of gay marriage.

Chuck Hurley, vice president of Family Leader, supports Defense of Marriage Act. “The federal Defense of Marriage Act was a good law,” Hurley said.

“It respected federalism and was duly passed by representatives of the people, which is where laws are supposed to come from, not from courts.”

Donna Red Wing, executive director of One Iowa, opposes Defense of Marriage Act. 

“I think it is unconstitutional,” Red Wing said. “I think it has created a second-class citizenship, a different kind of marriage for different people. I think the Supreme Court needs to find it unconstitutional.”

Hurley says that his concern of gay marriage is for children. “We care about kids. You can’t expect them to sort fact from fiction when old people are telling them fiction. And they’re supposed to look up to and even be submissive to older people. That’s the real crisis,” Hurley said.

“Our considered opinion is that kids do best with a mom and a dad. So we would advocate, on a personal level, to people not to procreate outside of one man and one woman, married for life.”

Red Wing believes just the opposite: that children raised in same-sex households are just as well off as those that are not.

“Gay and lesbian couples have had children, will have children, do have children, and when the experts, the American Pediatric Association, comes out and says a multiyear study has done extraordinary research, and they come out in favor of same-gender marriage,” Red Wing said.

If Defense of Marriage Act is repealed, Hurley said the Family Leader will continue supporting traditional families. 

“We would continue to try to coach parents to tell their kids what’s true and best. We would continue to love homosexuals. We’ve raised several thousand dollars to help homosexuals. I’ve hired several homosexuals,” Hurley said.

“This is not about hatred of a person or even of a person who is caught up in an orientation. This is love for children as expressed for what is true and best for them.”

Red Wing says that a repeal of Defense of Marriage Act would have immediate benefits. “It would immediately affect those legally married couples. Here in Iowa, there are more than 6,000 couple that have been married, and across the nation more than 100,000.”

“They would receive federal recognition. There would be tax incentives and benefits, things like Social Security and veterans benefits,” Red Wing said.

Red Wing does not believe that a repealed Defense of Marriage Act would change anything for heterosexual couples.

“Next year we will be celebrating four years of marriage equality. We didn’t go to Hell in a hand basket, the sky didn’t fall,” Red Wing said.

“Six thousand couples got married; loving, committed, gay and lesbian couples got married. That’s what happens, and I think Americans are starting to understand that.”

The court case will not be decided until late June.