Same-sex marriage needs legalized in entire US 

President Barack Obama marked a watershed moment in the same-sex marriage debate last week when he became the first sitting president of the United States to endorse the right of gay couples to marry. Now it is time to legalize same-sex marriages across the entire nation.

Nationwide, the support for same-sex marriages has increased dramatically over just the last six years. A Gallup poll in 1996 showed that just 27 percent of Americans supported marriages between gay couples. This year, 50 percent of Americans favored the marriages while 48 percent opposed it.

The stance by Obama, while just symbolic at this point, is the latest he has done to advocate for gay rights. In 2011, Obama told the federal government to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, legislation signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 that defined marriage as solely between a man and a woman. Before that, in late 2010, Obama signed legislation that repealed the “don’t ask, don’t tell,” law, which prohibited military service of openly gay men and lesbians.

Obama took his stance in favor of same-sex marriage after years of saying his views were evolving. He said during an interview with ABC News on Wednesday, “I had hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought civil unions would be sufficient.” We commend Obama for realizing that civil unions are not sufficiently equal for same-sex couples, but we disagree with what is next to approve weddings for gay couples.

In the same ABC News interview, Obama said that he would not be doing federal legislation, and that the issue of same-sex marriages should be decided on the state level. “I continue to believe that this is an issue that is going to be worked out at the local level, because historically this has not been a federal issue — what’s recognized as marriage.”
There is, however, a law on the federal books that defines what is recognized as marriage — the Defense of Marriage Act, which, though unenforced is still technically the law.

Equal rights for all Americans should not be decided on a state-by-state basis. Same-sex marriage is a civil right that needs to be enshrined at the federal level.

There are signs that lawmakers at the federal level are stirring — both for good and bad — now that Obama has articulated his opinion. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives on Wednesday approved legislation that would block the Justice Department from using federal funds to oppose the Defense of Marriage Act. Then, on Thursday, Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, suggested that the upper chamber of Congress might move to repeal DOMA.

The first step toward marriage equality should be the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. A key player in this step effort is Dianne Feinstein, who authored the legislation for the repeal. That legislation did, along party lines, pass the Senate Judiciary Committee in November, but it has languished since.

After repealing this shameful law that openly discriminates against same-sex couples, Congress needs to write and approve legislation that solidifies the rights of gay couples across the entire nation to marry. Obama is correct that same-sex couples deserve the same rights. He is wrong, however, that the American rights should be doled out on the basis of one’s geographical location. That was not an appropriate way to protect the civil rights of African-Americans, and it is not a sufficient solution to the civil rights aspirations of gay and lesbian Americans.

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