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Monday, September 1, 2014

A monumental week for the Supreme Court

Whether you agree with it or not, the highest court in the land has spoken on two monumental issues that will impact our society for a lifetime.

Last week, in two 5-4 decisions, the Supreme Court ruled on two important issues — first, whether same-sex couples should be afforded federal benefits, and second, whether some states should be able to change their election laws without federal approval.

By a narrow vote, the court struck down a section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. It was a significant victory and a historic event for same-sex rights advocates. Now, in states where same-sex marriage is legal, couples can file joint federal tax returns. Also, when a spouse dies, the survivor will now be able to receive a marital deduction on inheritance taxes.

The decision continues a clear momentum, as more and more states’ legislative bodies are contemplating the authorization of same-sex marriages. Right now, 29 states have constitutional amendments that define marriage as between a man and a woman. But in the wake of the court’s decision and with a more relaxed attitude toward gay marriage, will more states follow suit and legalize it?

The Supreme Court decision sets the stage for additional state-by-state wars, placing proponents and opponents of marriage equality against each other. In the more conservative regions of the South and West, opponents of marriage equality believe that the meaning of marriage must not be redefined, and they’re confident that the movement will halt after passing in the more liberal states.

I believe that in this case, the court may have overstepped its boundaries. This is a political decision that evokes deep emotions among Americans. I believe that the federal government should stay out of marriage, and that decisions about it should be left to the states. Each state should determine its meaning of marriage through the democratic process, by vote or referendum.

Pay attention to potential upcoming votes on marriage equality in New Jersey and Illinois, which may provide a forecast for the future of gay rights in America.

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