The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark act which had far reaching effects protecting people’s constitutional rights against racial segregation.
In 1967, the United States Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia struck down Virginia’s “Racial Integrity Act of 1924” ending all state race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States.
Currently, some states allow same sex couples to enter into civil marriages while others do not. On a federal level, in 1996, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act known as DOMA, which provides that no state needs to treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state.
DOMA is blatantly unconstitutional because it violates the “full faith and credit” provision in Article IV, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution which states: Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. It also violates the “equal protection” clause of the Fourteenth Amendment which requires equal treatment for all individuals.
There is nothing more fundamental then forming a family with the person you love. Yet, DOMA bars the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages and denies the same federal rights provided to “traditional” couples such as joint tax returns, Social Security survivor benefits, survivorship and inheritance, veteran’s pensions, just to name a few. Even now, hospitals are not mandated to offer hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples and they are not required to fully honor medical directives.
Loving v. Virginia did not release a flood of litigation or force any religious institutions to marry interracial couples. Likewise, because of the separation of church and state provision guaranteed by the First Amendment, no religious institution would be forced to marry same sex couples.
In striking down Virginia’s state law as unconstitutional, the Supreme Court concluded, “There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification.”
Forty-three years later, there is likewise no overriding legitimate purpose for prohibiting same sex couples the basic human right to marry and form a family — DOMA is unconstitutional.
As President John F. Kennedy said, “In giving rights to others which belong to them, we give rights to ourselves and to our country.”
As a society, we should consider amending the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” placed next to the words “race and gender.”
Tracy Emblem is an attorney and a Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress, California ‘s 50th District.