What Does The End of DOMA Mean For Virginia’s Married Same-sex Couples
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court came to a landmark decision and deemed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional. With DOMA no longer in effect this means that individuals who are in a same-sex marriage and live in a state that legally recognizes their marriage will “be eligible for the same rights, benefits, and protections afforded to straight married couples, virtually right away,” according to a press release from the Human Rights Campaign.
The question that still remains is: what does the end of DOMA mean for people in states that don’t legally recognize gay marriage, like Virginia?
HRC went on to clarify that marriages recognized in one state should be recognized in any state, at least at the federal level. “Under some of these rules, a federal agency looks at whether the state where a marriage was performed to determine if it is valid – meaning married same-sex couples should be recognized wherever they live.” And of course, it’s never that simple. “Some agencies’ rules look to whether a couple’s state of residence recognizes their marriage, which could impede recognition of many couples living in states without marriage equality.”
Chad Griffin President of The Human Rights Campaign said it was now up to the Obama administration to ensure same-sex couples get the rights they deserve. “Federal recognition for lesbian and gay couples is a massive turning point for equality, but it is not enough until every family is guaranteed complete access to the protections they need regardless of state borders.”
Congress was also targeted by HRC, saying that elected officials need to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, which would ensure all legal marriages are respected throughout the country, regardless of current residence.
Claire Guthrie Gastañaga, Executive Director of the Virginia ACLU, said DOMA does little to change marriage laws in VA, and the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage will ensure that for some time. “For purposes of Virginia rights and benefits, a marriage entered into in another state is void when the couple enters Virginia and is not be recognized by any governmental entity,” said Gastañaga via email.
However, at the federal level, Gastañaga explained that there are over 1,000 laws and regulations that offer rights, benefits or obligations for married couples, though it is not that easy to decode and apply. “Some of those laws clearly apply based on the location of the marriage and its validity where it was held,” said Gastañaga. “Other laws appear to apply based on where the married couple lives at the time the benefit or right accrues.”
Gastañaga echoed HRC’s comments on the executive Branch to work to make sure rights are extended to all legally married couples. “It may take some time to work through the how and when for all 1,000 plus benefits.”
I am originally from a small town in North Carolina and have recently moved to Richmond. Meaning I am a novice to the ways of Richmond life, but from what I have seen it is a culturally rich environment that I look forward to diving into. My daily hustle consists of playing bass, reading, and hunting for new music. This summer I will be interning with RVA Magazine and GayRVA.com. In the fall I will be transferring to Virginia Commonwealth University where I will major in journalism.
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