Recently, Seattle joined the fight with seven other U.S. cities and dozens of corporate employees against the federal government’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Defense of Marriage Act, which limits marriage to only a man and woman’s union, was passed by Congress in 1996. DOMA was signed into law by President Bill Clinton, who has since reversed his stance on the law. The Act prohibits federal agencies from acknowledging and recognizing same-sex couples as legally married even if that state allows same sex marriages. Cities such as Boston, Cambridge, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Santa Monica and West Hollywood, as well as corporate companies like Microsoft and Starbucks, all are united in the fight along with Seattle.
Under DOMA, employers must create two separate groups of married employees-gay and straight, which results in an unequal distribution of workplace benefits such a healthcare. Many companies believe that DOMA is detrimental to their businesses because of the uneven treatment of married couples as well as the financial penalty it imposes on employees. The issue will be brought forth to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals the first week of September.
The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce is a board of members that represents 2,000 companies in the Puget Sound region that are in favor of same-sex marriages. The board has voted to adopt a resolution supporting Referendum 74, a referendum that will appear on the Washington State ballot in November of this year. The fate of same-sex marriage is in the hands of voters in this year’s election. The chamber believes that by passing the same-sex marriage law, employment benefits will be simplified for all couples whether they are gay or straight, and Washington State could potentially benefit financially.
Amy Roney, a member of Leadership for the LGBTQ Resource Center, is a student at Bellevue College that is not in favor of DOMA. “The whole idea of DOMA is quite ridiculous in my opinion. I don’t understand how people could think that, somehow, same-sex marriages could change their marriage or what it means. To go along with that, suggesting that people of the same sex shouldn’t be able to get married, and if they are that they shouldn’t be given the same benefits as any other married couple is crazy,” said Roney.
Roney is proud of the effort made by Seattle, despite the country-wide struggle and controversy over same-sex marriages. Roney said, “I’m so proud to live in Seattle because I’m proud of the people that come from here. We have a whole city, full of people coming from completely different backgrounds, uniting together to support a part of the community that, even today, is somewhat forced into the shadows. We’ll always have a group of people that don’t like what we stand for and of those people, a select few who will protest against it, yet Seattleites still stand through it.”
Despite the Obama administration calling DOMA unconstitutional in February of 2011, John Boehner, the Republican House Speaker, convened the group BLAG. BLAG is the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group that was created in 2011 to defend DOMA because of the administrations unwillingness to defend the law. BLAG consists of the House Speaker, majority leader, majority whip, minority leader and minority whip. Despite their unsuccessful attempts, they are determined to continue to defend DOMA.
Shane Hughes, another member of leadership for the LGBTQ Resource Center, is respectful of different beliefs, but she is excited for same-sex marriage to pass in Washington State. Hughes said, “I respect that people have their beliefs because at least they are standing for something, even if it is against my own. But, all in all, it’s a religious view on how people should live their life. Taking rights away from people who fall in love with someone of the same sex is forcing their views along with forcing religion into the government. I hope that one day people will understand that marriage is for two people who are in love and gender has nothing to do with it. I am rather excited for same-sex marriage to pass because I want the right to marry the woman I fall in love with.”
In the end, the fate of same-sex marriage falls in the hands of the voters. Seattle has presented its stance on the topic, along with other big cities in the U.S.