March 29, 2013

In the Name of Fairness

In the Name of Fairness

The U.S. Supreme Court is once again in a position to make history. This week, the Justices took up the issue of whether the definition of marriage should extend to same-sex married couples. The essential question being considered by the Court is: should gay marriage be a right that is recognized by the federal government?

I, for one, think it’s about time for the debate on this to come to an end. It’s 2013. I am hoping the Supreme Court realizes that people should be able to legally marry the person of their choice, gay or straight, with all the rights, obligations and benefits that are attached. In nine states and the District of Columbia, this is already the case. The federal definition of marriage should be expanded to include all marriages in those states and in others that may permit same-sex marriage in the future. To continue the present double standard flies in the face of fairness and equitable treatment under the law.

There was a time in this country when slavery was common practice; U.S. Presidents owned slaves right up until Ulysses S. Grant. Women couldn’t vote and were not considered to be peers of men. Black people couldn’t attend the same schools, eat in the same restaurants or ride in the same bus seats as white people. And women didn’t have the right to choose. The Court took care of the latter with the landmark Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. Forty years hence, the Justices now need to do the same for gay marriage and vacate the misguided law that subverts this basic human right.

It turns out that even President Bill Clinton, who in 1996 signed into law the bill defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, has disavowed the Defense of Marriage Act entirely, urging that the law be overturned by the Supreme Court. Hurray for you, Mr. President! It is refreshing to see that people, including the man who signed the bill into law, are capable of realizing that what may have seemed like a good idea at the time, no longer works, and of taking steps to correct it.

Marcum started an LGBT practice last year, led by our partner Nanette Lee Miller. This practice has been an extraordinary success due to the legal complexities and financial issues facing LGBT couples, which are not shared by married heterosexuals. It’s mind-boggling that non-traditional families do not share the same income tax treatment, estate tax benefits, medical benefits and other favored status that many of us take for granted.

I have close friends and business associates who today can’t enjoy the same benefits and rights that I do. They deserve – and are entitled to – better.

Redefining marriage to include same-sex families is the right thing to do to secure the principle of equal protection and ensure the continued evolution of civil liberty in our society.

We may have gotten a hint of what’s to come from the Court during oral arguments on California’s Proposition 8, which reinstated a ban on same-sex marriage in that state. In response to the argument that one of the main tenets of the institution of marriage is procreation, the Justices asked if 55-year-olds should therefore not be allowed to marry. Let’s hope their deliberations on DOMA are equally guided by common sense.