Sunday March 10, 2013

Living in Massachusetts, I tend to forget that not everyone has legal rights to marry whomever they want. Right now, in front of our U.S. Supreme Court in Washington is a decision regarding the legality of Proposition 8 in California as well as the constitutionality of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

Proposition 8 was a California ballot proposition as well as a state constitutional amendment passed in the November 2008 state elections. The measure added a new provision to the Declaration of Rights in the California Constitution. The new provision provides "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." By changing the recognition of marriage to opposite-sex couples, the proposition overturned the California Supreme Court’s ruling allowing same-sex couples to have the constitutional right to marry.

Denying same-sex couples the right to marry unfairly taints lesbian and gay families, and sends the message they are second-class citizens. It also conveys that it is OK to discriminate against them.

I am a simple person. Either everyone is created equally and given the same "inalienable rights" as everyone else or not. If someone is not entitled to the same rights based on gender, race or sexual orientation, then they are being discriminated against. There is no middle ground.


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Same-sex couples should absolutely have access to the same benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

To all the opponents of legalizing gay marriage I ask: How would this change your life one bit? How would giving same sex couples the same legal rights as the rest of our population, affect you? It does not. There are 1,138 benefits, rights and protections provided on the basis of marital status under federal law. Right now, because the Defense of Marriage Act defines "marriage" as only a legal union between one man and one woman, gay and lesbian couples, even if legally married in their state, cannot be considered spouses under federal law.

Every person, regardless of their sexuality or whom they love, deserves equal rights like childcare tax credits, Social Security benefits, family and medical leave, health care benefits for spouses and children as well as estate planning taxes and benefits. Every single American citizen is entitled to these benefits, not just heterosexual couples.

In Massachusetts, when debating the issue of gay marriage, the Massachusetts Supreme Court wrote an opinion to the state Senate on Feb. 3, 2004 stating that offering civil unions was not an acceptable alternative to gay marriage because "Š it is a considered choice of language that reflects a demonstrable assigning of same-sex, largely homosexual, couples to second-class status."

Time has come for Washington to step up to the plate and allow gay and lesbian couples equal rights in expressing their love and commitment to each other. It is time to first strike down Proposition 8, then move on to the larger task of taking discrimination out of our Constitution and striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.

PATRICK LECLAIR

Pittsfield