Thursday, September 12, 2013

Brown Bag: DOMA/Prop 8 Reflection

While I was enjoying the summers of Hamilton,  DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and Proposition 8, a piece of legislation that originated in California, were struck down in June of 2013. At the time, I was  confused as to why so many people were rejoicing because I didn't know exactly what the two acts entailed. I understood Prop 8 as a similar version of my home state's Amendment 1 that also will not allow state recognition of marriage between same-sex couples or heterosexual domestic civil unions. I also remembered seeing commercials in one of my political science  classes in high school that were aired in California for upholding Prop 8 and perhaps DOMA. It was not that wasn't excited, I just didn't understand the gravity of what it meant until this particular brown bag discussion.
      DOMA essentially defines what the word "spouse" means and that didn't include someone of the same sex. Therefore, marriages couldn't be federally recognized. This leads to tax issues and I know a bit about taxes from my brief experience with the Colgate VITA program. For example, New York as a state now recognizes the marriage of same-sex couples. However, tax law states that a same-sex couple in a married union cannot file taxes jointly. Now that DOMA has been struck down, marriages between same-sex couples can be federally recognized, tax law is sure to change in the coming months to allow same sex couples to file federal taxes jointly in New York but not necessarily for all state taxes.
       Each person on the panel ( Brit, Tara, Professor Valente, and Professor Stern), brought something different to the discussion. I guess a high light for me was hearing Professor Valente's story relating to his partner not being able to live with him in the U.S despite the fact that they have legally married twice. Professor's Valente's partner is a citizen of the U.K. Usually when a non-citizen marries a U.S citizen, the non-U.S citizen spouse is granted citizenship and entry into the country through a process. Because of pre- DOMA legislation, the federal government would not recognize the marriage and Professor Valente and his partner could not live together in the country. Now that DOMA is no more, perhaps they will consider getting married again in the U.S for the third time, but "only for the toasters."

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