Not too far in the distant past, the Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia that it was unconstitutional to ban inter-racial marriages. Since that pivotal 1967 decision, the landscape of families and our view of marriage has changed drastically in the United States, however, in 1996 Congress enacted the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) to strictly define marriage for federal purposes as a union between a man and woman, and until 2004 no states recognized same sex marriages.
Over the past decade, great efforts were made to raise awareness of the gross injustice being done to those citizens being denied the right to marry someone of the same sex. Indeed, all of us that cherish our Constitutional right to pursue happiness must recognize that picking a spouse and forming a family with another is a fundamental right, and that right has major legal significance including a person’s ability to receive social security benefits, medical insurance, veteran benefits, Medicaid, access to hospital visits, family leave, retirement interests, estate claims, and even immigration status. Thus, to deny someone the right to marry a person of the same sex grossly prejudices that person’s right to equal treatment under the law and due process.
In 2009, the District of Columbia legalized same sex marriages, and Maryland followed suit in January 2013. Then in June 2013, the U. S. Supreme Court finally repealed DOMA, and soon thereafter many more states have started to permit gay marriages, but only this week did Virginia finally join the growing number of jurisdictions (now totaling about 20 states, as well as the District of Columbia) that allow for same sex marriages. With all three states in the DC metro area now in sync on this issue, people will now be able to marry within their own state without having to cross any borders to say “I do” only to then wonder what rights/privileges will be extended to the couple back in their own home state. Also, in the unfortunate event of divorce, these couples will not have to leave their jurisdiction to dissolve their unions elsewhere, as many have been forced to do thus far, often at significant expense.
Clearly we have come a long way in the past decade, and now with mounting pressure to have our federal and local laws in sync, it should not be long before we see the majority of other states follow suit. If anyone has any lingering doubts, just look back to that once controversial ruling in Loving v. VA to see how in just a short period of time we have made great strides in accepting and appreciating the beauty of an increasingly diverse and fluid society, which actually throughout history has proven to be one of the best qualities of our nation.