The sovereignty of marriage

States should be allowed to define marriage on their own terms

The definition of marriage is under debate once again and state sovereignty swings in the balance: federal law that does not recognize same-sex couples is in conflict with Massachusetts state legislation. Even though their state of residence recognizes their marriage, same-sex couples are not eligible for spousal benefits under federal Social Security. The differentiation in state-federal law is problematic on this specific issue. To solve this dilemma, let the states have discretion over the definition of marriage and apply benefits accordingly. Massachusetts is one of two states that legalized same-sex marriage since 2004. However, this marriage law was compromised when the state failed to provide benefits to gay spouses after their loved ones passed away. On behalf of eight same-sex couples, a gay rights organization based in Boston is challenging the congressional statute in the suit Gill v. Office of Personnel Management. With this case, state law directly conflicts with the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) of 1996, which defines marriage as âÄúonly a legal union between one man and one woman.âÄù This debate takes issue with state sovereignty. The United States adopted a federal system in order for states to have their own discretion. If you take exception with a state law, you have the option to move or seek services across state borders. The Supreme Court validated this state sovereignty when it comes to the definition of marriage in the 1995 case of United States v. Lopez. In practice, however, the DoMA holds more weight over peoplesâÄô lives than the Supreme Court statute. With the Gill v. Office of Personnel suit, it has become clear that states currently lack the power to define marriage. It is time to give that discretion back to the states and out of the hands of federal government. The regulation of family life is not a federal issue and currently is in conflict with state law and a Supreme Court statute. This lawsuit regarding same-sex marriage demands for state law to take precedence.