What does it mean to defend something? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, to defend is to “resist an attack on; protect from harm or danger.” What exactly is the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) intended to defend against?

If I didn’t know better, I would guess that a law in defense of marriage was intended to protect same-sex partners who are married in states that recognize same-sex marriages and who then relocate to states that do not. Sadly, this is not the case. It is instead intended to defend a very specific definition of marriage and to deprive same-sex couples of the rights extended to heterosexual couples across the nation. Rather than defend the very personal decision to commit one’s self to another, it seems that the federal law has effectively mangled the sanctity of marriage for many same-sex couples.

Although same-sex couples can be legally married in a handful of U.S. states, they are not recognized as married by the federal government. These legally married couples must check “single” on their federal tax returns and forgo the substantial tax breaks extended to their heterosexual married friends. Federal employees worry about the security of their families because if they die unexpectedly while working on behalf of their country, their spouses will not be entitled to one cent of their hard-earned pension.

The Massachusetts Attorney General is attempting to sue the federal government for enacting a law that violates the Fifth Amendment. Recent news indicates that Connecticut politicians may also be about to join the fight. Besides tax breaks, pensions, and the very principles of democratic equality, what exactly is at stake? According to Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), there are approximately 1,138 federal laws on the books that pertain directly to marriage. Denying anyone those rights (or responsibilities, in some cases) based on the gender of their spouse is not only discriminatory—it’s not logical.

If pressed, I can think of a number of reasons people probably shouldn’t get married. In this country, however, the only people who are legally prevented from marrying are minors (although some states allow marriage with parental consent), close relatives, and non-heterosexual couples. The federal government grants marital privileges to people who slur drunken vows to relative strangers in Las Vegas wedding chapels but not to a great number of couples who, in my opinion, have more to offer in defense of marriage than a lot of married heterosexuals.

Some brave couples in Boston are leading a good-humored fight to defend their rightful marriages. Click on the following link to read or listen to their story on NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126541845

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