"I believe gay marriage should be between a man and a woman."
— Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold was obviously a little confused when he spouted the timeless wisdom cited above. Lots of people are confused when it comes to gay marriage. But that's about to change.
On October 21st, four gay couples, who were legally married in other states but who are now living in Tennessee, filed a lawsuit in district federal court challenging Tennessee's laws preventing the recognition of gay marriage. It was the first legal shot fired against the gay-marriage ban in Tennessee, and it was just one of many such shots being fired in states around the country.
For example, in Ohio in July a federal judge ruled in favor of a gay couple's legal marriage status, despite that state's ban on same-sex marriage. Two Ohio men who were legally married in another state sought to be recognized as a legally married couple under Ohio law for purposes of obtaining a death certificate for one of them, who was dying of Lou Gehrig's disease. The judge ruled that the Ohio registrar of death certificates had to accept the couple's status as married and list the surviving spouse as just that, "surviving spouse."
In his ruling, the judge cited the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision in United States v. Windsor, which effectively overturned the national "Defense of Marriage Act" as unconstitutional. The Ohio judge ruled that his state's ban on same-sex marriage had "unjustifiably created two tiers of couples: 1) opposite-sex marriage couples legally married in other states; and 2) same-sex marriage couples married in other states. This lack of equal protection of law is fatal."
Fatal it is, and fatal it shall be, in case after case, I predict, as gay couples in every state with gay-marriage bans are filing or planning to file lawsuits against such laws. It was Texas' turn on Tuesday, as two gay couples sued to overturn that state's ban. The dominoes are going to fall quickly.
After all, if this conservative-dominated Supreme Court has overturned DOMA at the national level, what chance do gay-marriage bans have at the state level? Probably not much of one.
As Bianca Phillips reports this week, one of the Tennessee couples that has sued is from Memphis. Their names are Ijpe DeKoe, an Army Reserve sergeant, and Thom Kostura. "Fairness and equality are the guiding principles of our government, and as a member of the armed forces, I have fought and will continue to fight for those principles," said DeKoe, who served a tour of duty in Afghanistan. "After returning to Memphis with Thom, I was saddened to learn that Tennessee law does not live up to those ideals in the way it treats married same-sex couples."
He's right, morally — and sooner than many expected, he'll be right, legally. Mazel tov, Arnold.