Same-sex marriage in United State is not allowed or recognized as a legal reunion in some States due to the enactment of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996 (Domawatch.org). Section 2 of the DOMA law elaborates on the definition of the marriage which it states is “a legal union between one man and one woman for purposes of all federal laws..” (Domawatch.org).
By design and for all purposes this Act also outlaws imposition of gay marriage rights in a State that does not consent to gay marriage in it jurisdiction and categorically states that “States need not recognize a marriage from another State if it is between two persons of the same sex” (Domawatch.org).
Theoretically DOMA law was enacted to counteract a possible legalization of gay marriages especially in States that were vehemently objecting to it legalization in the aftermath of the Supreme Court Ruling in the case of Baehr v. Lewin/Miike (Lambdalegal.org).
In this case the Supreme Court judges ruled that States that wished to continue banning gay marriages “must show compelling interest in prohibiting same-sex marriages” thereby shifting the burden of proof to the State and offering a lifeline to gay activists for possibility of legalization of same-sex marriages (Lambdalegal.org).
But with the introduction of DOMA law three years later many States that objected to legalization of same-sex marriage obtained a reprieve as far as acceptance of gay marriages in their jurisdictions was concerned.
However, Article Four of the United States Constitution which summarizes the code of conduct between States and the federal government provides a different recourse when it comes to imposition of legal rulings and laws in another State.
Section 1 of Article Four, also commonly referred as Full Faith and Credit Act requires other States to uphold the laws and judgments of other States when required to do so and states in part that “full faith and credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every State” (Liptak). This Act is entrenched in the constitution and supersedes the DOMA law in more than one way due to the fact that it predates the enactment of DOMA law which was done very recently.
Since legalization of same-sex marriage is often done through enactment of public Acts within States that approve it, all other States have an obligations to uphold this law in their jurisdiction according to Article IV notwithstanding existence of any other contradictory laws. The importance of the States to abide by these obligations as outlined by Article IV is far more crucial than the option provided by the DOMA law for the following reasons.
Foremost, it is impossible to discriminate on the type of the laws that one State must enact in order for the other States to uphold them given the impossibility of such an initiative in addition to the fact that this will amount to micromanagement of another States internal affairs. Even if exceptions were to be made on which type of laws that each State was liberty to uphold, a form of framework would be required to guide this process which would be impossible to develop since the issue of law in this case is very relative.
In any case recognizing gay marriages as legal unions in their jurisdictions does not in any way impose any obligations for other State to enact similar laws. More importantly Article IV provides a national reference of code of conduct between States and the federal government which cannot be modified to allow reservations from particular States.
The proponents of the DOMA law asserts that the Act only exemplifies what the United State Constitution has always held to be the case for 200 years, where marriage is a union between a man and a woman.
But the same constitution provides the right for any person intending to enter into marriage to choose “a partner of one’s choice”, in any case the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment also supports this reasoning (Mount). Another faulty argument advanced by DOMA proponents asserts DOMA act can be enforced by the virtue of the same Article IV Section 1 which says “ States have certain reciprocal obligations to one another specifically to recognize public Acts, records and judicial proceedings” (Liptak).
The argument is that the enactment of DOMA Act can be respected in the same way as any other public Act; this argument is faulty given that the legality of the Act itself has been quashed by the Supreme Court. Just recently in 2009, the Supreme Court ruled that DOMA was unconstitutional in a dispute resolution during tribunal hearings; the same Act is challenged in not less than six States nationally.
Domawatch.org. The Federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), 2010. Web. 16 Oct 2010
Lambdalegal.org. Baehr v. Miike: Summary, 2010. Web. 16 Oct 2010
Liptak, A. United States Constitution: Article IV. 2006. Web. 16 Oct 2010 http://topics.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articleiv
Mount, S. The United States Constitution, 2010. Web. 16 Oct 2010