Carroll County Times

Editorial: A step toward equality

The Supreme Court ruled correctly Wednesday when it voided a law that discriminated against one group of people and favored another.
The court ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was unconstitutional. Congress passed the measure and it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996. In defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, though, that meant that legally married gay couples could not receive the federal benefits that are afforded to married couples.
That list is long. There are more than 1,000 federal laws in which marital status matters, according to The Associated Press. Among them, everything from income and inheritance taxes to health benefits and pensions.
The case that the court took up involved a New York woman who was hit with a $360,000 federal tax bill after her spouse died in 2009. The couple married in Canada in 2007, but because the federal government didn't recognize the union, the woman did not receive the breaks that are given to married opposite-sex couples.
Over the years, stories of same-sex spouses not receiving benefits or, worse, being denied access to their partner in cases of medical emergencies, have become more commonplace.
When Clinton signed DOMA in 1996, no state recognized same-sex marriages. Today, however, 12 states, including Maryland recognize them. And with a second Supreme Court ruling in a different case Wednesday, the Supreme Court struck down a California law banning same-sex marriage, meaning California would be the 13th state to recognize same-sex marriages.
Public opinion polls consistently show that support for same-sex marriages is greater than the number opposing them, and the numbers continue to grow.
Regardless of your feelings on same-sex marriages, though, it is hard to justify government sanctioned discrimination that provides benefits to one group of people while denying them to another group.
Maryland voters made the right decision when they approved a gay marriage measure on the ballot, and Wednesday's Supreme Court ruling assures that couples recognized as legally married in Maryland will be similarly recognized in the eyes of the federal government.