Southern Brooklyn

Op-Ed: DOMA’s Dead — Let Freedom (& Wedding Bells) Ring!

Source: joseanavas/Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: The Supreme Court gaveth a day after it tooketh away.

Less than 24 hours after the Supreme Court invalidated part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, it — sort of — righted justice by an identical 5-4 margin when it ruled the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional and affirmed equal protection to same-sex couples and their families in states that legislate it. As a result, same-sex married couples are now entitled to the rights and benefits, such as Social Security, that are guaranteed to married heterosexual couples.

The vote came, coincidentally, just a couple of days before the 44th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that erupted in Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan, which sparked the establishment of the Gay Liberation Front and drew attention to the oppression of gays, a turning point in gay rights history.

The decision noted that DOMA created and endorsed a two-tier system that basically designated same-sex couples “as second class” citizens, which violated their Fifth Amendment right to equal protection.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is regularly viewed as a swing vote, wrote for the majority that DOMA is a stigma for those “who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the states.”

DOMA established the legal definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. It went into effect in 1996 when President Bill Clinton, who, as he campaigned for reelection, reluctantly signed the legislation that barred same-sex couples whose marriages were recognized by their home state from receiving benefits available to other married couples under federal law. Clinton has since come out in support of same-sex marriage and civil rights for gays and lesbians.

The ruling will have a tremendous impact for married same-sex couples in the 12 states and the District of Columbia that officially recognize such unions. More than a thousand federal laws give benefits linked to marital status, and now same-sex couples in states that have legalized it are now also eligible.

Although a recent New York Times/CBS poll indicated a majority of Americans and some religious groups support same-sex marriage, there are still millions of bigots who will continue to challenge marriage equality.

Even before celebrations of the monumental ruling got underway across the nation, the usual suspects opposed to same-sex marriage expressed their dissatisfaction. As hundreds of supporters out-shouted adversaries of the ruling in front of the Supreme Court, the head of the National Organization for Marriage said his organization will continue “to battle against equal marriage rights for gay couples.”

Another instant response came from one of the right’s most irritating voices, Minnesota Republican and Tea Party darling Michelle Bachmann, who issued a statement that read in part, “not even a Supreme Court, can undo what a holy God has instituted… The court action will undermine the best interest of children and the best interests of the United States.”

Some Christian groups, Bible thumpers and others will indeed continue to lobby state legislators against supporting same-sex marriage, as they echo their hackneyed cry that it will “spoil the moral fabric of our nation.”

Barack Obama, the first president to openly support same-sex marriage, added his delight for the decision: “The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts: when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free.”

New York became the fifth state to rule in favor of marriage equality two years ago, just days before the celebration of the nation’s independence, so, with July 4 on the horizon, I restate and revise some of the words I wrote then: it’s gratifying that same-sex marriage has been sanctioned — though some Americans will never accept the homosexual way of life or federal recognition of same sex marriages.

As the milestone legislation takes effect, every American, regardless of gender, will be entitled to the cherished equality sought and attained by our Founding Fathers.

For a nation that prides itself on freedom and independence, some Americans are appallingly bigoted, particularly when it comes to homosexuality, which is merely a private behavior that has no public consequences.

The debate to guarantee same-sex marriages rights is not over. There is certainly a lot more work that must be done to guarantee that gays and lesbians will be treated equally on a national scale.

Now Congress has to embrace and pass the Respect for Marriage Act that would comprehensively repeal the repugnant and discriminatory residual aspects of the Defense of Marriage legislation. The Supreme Court’s ruling is a refreshing, albeit, long-awaited development towards that end. Nonetheless, the gay and lesbian communities must continue to fight for unequivocal equality and dignity.

The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the strongest supporters of same-sex marriage, said the battle now reverts back to the 38 states that define marriage as between one man and one woman “…legislature by legislature, governor by governor, constitutional amendment by constitutional amendment.”

Little by little our nation’s laws are catching up to the fundamentals fashioned by our Founding Fathers that millions of Americans highly value: all Americans are treated equally, no matter who they are or who they love.

The Supreme Court’s decision ends a particular discrimination against gays and lesbians and, as we prepare to celebrate our 237th birthday, gives a little more impact to the phrase: Liberty and Justice for all.

Neil S. Friedman is a veteran reporter and photographer, and spent 15 years as an editor for a Brooklyn weekly newspaper. He also did public relations work for Showtime, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. Friedman contributes a weekly column called “Between the Lines” on life, culture and politics in Sheepshead Bay.

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

Comment policy


  1. Can’t wait for Sharia Law to be implemented to correct this. Allah U Akbar!

    When do the child rape celebrations occur? Pedophiles will be the next group to enjoy “freedom”.

    Make no mistake, the rest of the remaining civilized world is laughing at this modern Sodom and Gomorrah, and there is a silent majority within this failing nation that are appalled and will do whatever must be done to stomp out this degeneracy that spreads depravity, vile disease and even victimizes children.

    Anywhere this abomination is declared a right ends in waves of homosexual rapes of heterosexuals. The very military is suffering waves of homosexual rapes that are conveniently labeled as “sexual assaults”.

  2. “As the milestone legislation takes effect, every American, regardless of
    gender, will be entitled to the cherished equality sought and attained
    by our Founding Fathers.” You got balls talking about what our Founding fathers wanted.
    For a nation that prides itself on freedom and independence, some
    Americans are appallingly bigoted, particularly when it comes to
    GUN Ownership, which is merely an individual choice with which they
    disagree. FIFY.

    You could have taken this oppurtunity to just write about what happened but you cant pass up bashing someone and calling people names. Its interesting that you mention Clinton only signed it because he was up for reelection but he did so own it. On the other hand the the Cato Institute (“evil” Koch brothers) has been pro rights the whole time.

  3. For a nation that prides itself on freedom and independence, some
    Americans are appallingly bigoted, particularly when it comes to
    homosexuality, which is merely an individual choice with which they

    Neil, are you suggesting that homosexuality is a choice or did you mean “which to them is merely an individual choice…”

  4. When does the “homosexual” tax take effect? Since we as a nanny state punish smokers, the obese and drug dependent with heavy taxes to offset their healthcare, Why is there no Homosexual Tax?

    Homosexuals indulge in high risk unhealthy behavior that is known to spread deadly, incurable disease that cost the healthcare system countless billions. Homosexuals as a group suffer far higher rates of mental illness and commit suicide at far greater rates than the heterosexual population.

    Why aren’t homosexuals paying “their fare share”? Why are their health insurance costs at a premium of at least equal to smokers?

  5. Whatever you just wrote, is the perfect example of why everyone hates Jewish people…. i hope one day you realize how stupid you sound for being a horrible person to other people by saying things like this.

    How about we tax Synagogues for shit? Why is it that churches and Synagogues don’t pay taxes?

  6. My thought on this can be summarized with the following quote “A cat can give birth to kittens in the oven, but that don’t make them biscuits.”

  7. Also, why is it when a gentile says something disagreeable you dislike the person that said it, but when a Jew says something disagreeable then the whole nationality is to be blamed?

  8. Fix what exactly? The person who wrote this is a hoplophobe and likes to pick and choose what rights certain people should and shouldn’t have. So when he talks about the Constitution or Founding Fathers it needs to be pointed out.

  9. You have more of a “right” to sodomize someone than you do to defend yourself with a gun from being sodomized. Talk about priorities.

  10. When do the first gay sex orgies take place in the local houses of worship in the “name of freedom”?

  11. Tuth, It’s nothing against Jews, it’s about that comment specifically. How are you going to Tax everything, but not yourself? Religion gets away with sooo much shit, Oh your a priest? no tax, oh your a rabbi? no Tax, screw that, Tax them all!

  12. You just said “is the perfect example of why everyone dislikes Jewish.” How is this not against Jews? That persons opinion reflects the opinion of most religious Christians Jews and Muslims. Also, Rabbis and priests get taxed like everyone else. It’s their organizations that don’t get taxed but that is the same for any non-profit.

  13. why everyone dislikes Jewish people

    Your hate is as deplorable as his. Anyone can use any name on this site and adding the word “Rabbi” before his name does not necessarily mean he is the person who he claims to be; one troll has already had his comment removed after spouting hate that cited Islam and Sharia law.

    Nor does it mean that a single Rabbi speaks for the Jewish people, certainly not for me. If you can’t recognize that individuals can belong to groups and hold differing and varying opinions and you’re predisposed to associating only negativity to the group (see the part I quoted you on) then you’re as bigoted as the person you responded to.

  14. Google is one source.

    Second source is a Rabbi LOL…. if you have one that is a friend of yours you can ask them if they pay taxes. The answer will be No. one of the many perks buddy.

  15. I don’t know any Rabbis that don’t pay taxes, they all do. What you are probably misunderstanding is patronage, which lets clergy write off some housing related expanses such as rent and furniture. But you can do this with many home based businesses. So let’s be very clear, Rabbi’s and priests pay income tax just like everyone else.

  16. 3. Exemption for the self-employment tax for certain ministers:

    If you are conscientiously opposed to public insurance because of individual religious considerations, or you are opposed because of the principles of the religious denomination you belong to, you can claim an exemption from the self-employment tax by filing Form 4361 with the IRS. If the exemption is granted, you do not pay Social Security or Medicare taxes on your earnings.

    4. Parsonage allowance:

    Ministers can exclude from their income a rental allowance or the fair rental value of a parsonage that is provided to them as pay for their services.

    Fun fact:

    If the “parsonage exemption” on religious ministers’ housing costs were revoked, American clergy members would cumulatively lose an estimated $2.3 billion over five years.

  17. For your remark equating equality with gun ownership. Why can’t I bash someone? I wrote an opinion column. That’s my opinion. You don’t have to like it, but, at least understand what it is.

  18. You realize that the second amendment protects your right to own a firearm and that the constitution makes absolutely no reference to sodomy, right?

  19. Gay women have the lowest rate of HIV/AIDS of any group in the world. Far lower than straight men or women. Why should they be subjected to this? You really need to stop categorizing people into neatly confined and poorly though out groups.

    Also, since most the human population identifies as heterosexual, I can assure you more heterosexuals suffer from far higher rates of mental illness.

  20. Here in America, the division of ‘church’ and state is taken seriously. No house of worship has ever been forced to perform a ceremony it did not agree with, ever. If you can’t understand this, maybe you should go back to the farm in Russia you crawled out of.

  21. I clearly understand that you like to talk about the Constitution but pick and choose what you think is right and wrong. As for equating equality with gun ownership its very simple. Everyone is equal. Homosexuals should have the same rights as everyone else just like gun owners should not be 2nd class citizens to politicians or police. I only bring up guns here because of your hate for them and then have balls to talk about Constitutional protected rights. There are homophobes and there are also hoplophobes. Do you think its ok to be either? You also dont have to like my comments and opinions but at least understand them.

  22. oh that’s right only homosexuals engage in “sodomy” afterall heterosexuals never ever engage in masturbation, oral and anal sex. no never ever ever

  23. “Homosexuals indulge in high risk unhealthy behavior that is known to spread deadly, incurable disease that cost the healthcare system countless billions.”

    A disproportionate number of the people with HIV are african american women, and yet no tirades against them. Need I mention that most gay and bisexual men aren’t HIV+ and gay women actually have lower rates of hiv infection than heterosexual men and women. You know why?
    Because being a sexually active gay person doesn’t lead one to catch hiv. its very difficult to catch hiv through means other than unprotected penetrative sex.

    ” Homosexuals as a group suffer far higher rates of mental illness and commit suicide at far greater rates than the heterosexual population.”

    Maybe that has something to do with having fundamentally less rights and being abused and mistreated.
    Take for instance the fact that in 29 states you can be denied employment based on your sexuality.
    There is federal non housing non discrimination law.
    Or that even though you only make up 3% of the population you’re the third most targeted group for hate crimes after blacks and jews.
    An estimated 1/3 of the homeless children are LGBT.

    And these things produce something called minority stress. you should google it before talk a whole lotta ****

  24. He didn’t state any sort of religious opinion. He talked a whole lot of crap that isn’t even true.
    1. you can’t catch hiv unless you have unprotected sex.
    2. lgbt people have higher rates of mental issues because of things like harassment, violence and discrimination. Not soley because we’re LGBT.

    Being “religious” doesn’t give you a right to make uninformed bigoted comments.

  25. Yeah because you know marriage is for procreation….said the people who turn a blind eye to seniors, infertile and voluntarilly childless people getting married.

  26. Never understood what the big deal was. If two people want to get married. Let them. It’s there choice. Who the hell seriously cares. Doesn’t effect me or you. Just them cause they are the ones choosing to get married.

  27. Religion doesn’t allow that…. that is what the big deal is.

    Take into consideration Westboro Baptist Church….. prime example of asshats.

  28. If the founding fathers lived today they would not favor easy availability of “defensive” weapons. The times they lived in were different, guns were survival, many people still hunted for what they ate. Standby militias did not exist.

    And if the founding fathers lived today they would scratch their in wonder about why so many people just won’t leave their fellow Americans alone. They would think, we never cared whether one was heterosexual or homosexual. It wasn’t our business to intrude. And so matters stood until the late 1800s, when “social reformers” imposed their morality on our society.

  29. I suggest you learn a bit more about the people who participated in the process of writing the Constitution. These were not people whose views were frozen in time. They recognized that as situations change our constitution would have to evolve to accommodate those developments.

    Besides, the reasoning for the need of an armed population was clearly described in the Second Amendment. As written earlier state militias are now standing entities, and the state government provides the weaponry.

  30. These old weapons have little practical use for most people. Few of us track down and shoot our dinner these days. But these weapons are still capable of killing people, and those who want unfettered access to them are scary.

  31. I suggest you do a little homework regarding 2A. It doesnt matter what you think. Fact is the 2nd Amendment was not written to give the right to bear arms, It was written to protect existing individual rights from the govt. It also has nothing to do with hunting. Guns will never magically disappear and there is no way the people of this country will ever allow them to be taken away.

  32. I suggest you read the Federalist Papers. The Constitution was not written to give people the right to armed rebellion against the government. There were some who wanted States to have more power than the Federal government but were persuaded that a weak central government would mean the eventual failure of all the states that comprised it.

    Your obsession with your presumed rights in perpetuity to own weapons is a illustration of why weapon use has to be controlled. Because it is obvious that you fail to realize that a group of armed thugs with an agenda that works against your interests could easily use the force of weapons to exercise a coup. And if you don’t think this is possible, I suggest you travel through the western states and talk to a lot of people. The militia movement is alive and kicking, and potentially dangerous.

  33. “Because it is obvious that you fail to realize that a group of armed
    thugs with an agenda that works against your interests could easily use
    the force of weapons to exercise a coup”. This another reason you should want to be armed. You dont get it. Firearms are not going anywhere and while criminals, police and the govt. have guns i want to have one. I will say again no group or entity will take guns away from the people. It wont happen. So either embrace it or live with it. Look at what happened to that gay guy a few weeks ago in the city some nut job killed him in cold blood. Dont you think he wished at that moment he could’ve at least tried to protect himself with equal force? I have a gun for the same reason people put their seat belts on or have a fire extinguisher in the home. Insurance. Just because you have it doesnt mean you will not die in a fire or a crash but it gives you a chance at survival. If you dont understand that, i cant say anything else to you.


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