NYT: A basic civil right

Posed on nytimes.com:

"After a nearly three-week trial in January, and a lengthy hiatus while lawyers fought over documents, closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8, California’s ban on the freedom to marry.

"No one expects the ruling from Judge Vaughn Walker in Federal District Court to be the last word. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, will have its say, and so, eventually, may the Supreme Court.

"The testimony made abundantly clear that excluding same-sex couples from marriage exacts a grievous toll on gay people and their families. Domestic partnerships are a woefully inadequate substitute.

"On the witness stand, the plaintiffs described the pain and stigma of having their relationships relegated by the state to a lesser category that fails to convey the love and commitment inherent in marriage. 'My state is supposed to protect me. It’s not supposed to discriminate against me,' said Paul Katami, one of the plaintiffs.

"Defenders of Proposition 8 produced no evidence to back up their claim that marriage between same-sex couples would hurt heterosexual marriage. 'I don’t know. I don’t know,' the defense attorney, Charles Cooper, said when asked for an explanation by the judge at a pretrial hearing.

... "It’s not possible to know whether the final ruling in this case will broadly confront the overarching denial of equal protection and due process created by prohibiting one segment of society from entering into marriage. The Supreme Court has, in different cases, called marriage 'essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men' and a 'basic civil right.' 

... "But there are actions that can be taken now. States like New York should not put off acting on legislation to legalize marriage equality. Last week, President Obama extended a modest package of benefits — including day care and relocation allowances — to all partners of federal employees. Congress has a duty to extend to same-sex partners the rest of the benefits that are enjoyed by federal workers whose spouses are of a different sex. It also needs to repeal the 1996 law [the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)] that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman."

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