Defense of Marriage Act ruling shows courts rejecting marriage inequality, activist says

Yesterday, the 1st Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals struck down a key provision in the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, shorthanded as DOMA. And while the ruling doesn't directly impact Colorado, where a fight over a civil unions bill killed not once but twice was the story of the just-completed legislative session, One Colorado executive director Brad Clark sees it as having symbolic import.

"I think it's just one more example of a pattern of consistent recognition by courts that marriage inequality by any government violates our core constitutional principles," Clark says.

The appeals court didn't reject DOMA as a whole. Rather, the jurists looked at the question of whether the federal government can preclude same-sex couples married in one of the jurisdictions that allows such unions (Iowa, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York and Washington, D.C., with Maryland and Washington state possibly joining the list soon) from enjoying the assorted tax benefits and the like as other married couples. Their conclusion: Such a policy is unconstitutional.

This is hardly the final word on the subject: Most observers expect the U.S. Supreme Court to eventually take on the DOMA controversy. And locally, as Clark points out, "Colorado has a state constitutional amendment that defines marriage." That's why "we're seeking a remedy through the legislature to provide gays and lesbians throughout the state with critical protections."

Clark's use of present tense is telling. While the civil unions bill was filibustered to death at the end of the regular legislature term, and then voted down by a so-called "kill committee" during a special session called by Governor John Hickenlooper in an effort to counter opponents' maneuvering, there's no doubt it will be reintroduced the next time the legislature meets.

Before that happens, an election will take place, with local senators and representatives on the ballot throughout the state along with presidential candidates and more. As such, Clark says, "Our full focus is now on November. We're going to be holding House leadership accountable for their actions. Our community and One Colorado will be fighting back."

He clearly believes momentum is on his group's side. He sees the DOMA ruling as "reinforcing what we've seen over the past many years. Poll after poll shows that a majority of Americans, and a majority of Colorado voters, support the fair and equal treatment of gay and lesbian couples."

Likewise, he adds, "Court after court has affirmed that marriage discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans is unfair."

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More from our News archive: "Dee Coram, gay son of rep who helped kill civil unions bill, on love and dad."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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