Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes: DOMA for dummies |

Vail Daily columnist Richard Carnes: DOMA for dummies

Passed by Congress and signed into law by America’s infidelity king in 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act basically made it illegal for federal agencies to recognize same-sex marriages, even in the nine states where they are currently legal, thus allowing federal benefits to go only to heterosexual married couples.

And some feign shock that there’s a problem?

Our Constitution guarantees equality to all of us up front, with every American having the legal right to the same opportunities, with no exceptions, absolutely none (please note that this is for opportunities, however, not results). Color, race, creed, height, weight, shoe size, political preference, sexual preference, favorite beer or football team – none of that matters as far as the legal right to pursue opportunities is concerned (except, of course, Raiders fans).

And part of that legal right, the largest part according to the vocal majority, involves liberty, which they spell “m-o-n-e-y.”

Yet while a well-intentioned few are actually standing on a soapbox of principle as the Supreme Court considers ruling on the constitutionality of gay marriage, most are really just angry and offended at the financial unfairness of it all.

And there is nothing shallow about such a stance in the least.

I am ashamed to say that even as I was a child in the ’60s it was still against the law in many Southern states for a black man to marry a white woman.

That’s embarrassing to admit even now.

But to deny federal tax benefits, inheritance tax benefits, medical benefits, welfare assistance and all sorts of entitlements based upon gender preference is just as shameful in today’s world.

In fact, there are more than 1,000 federal laws and programs containing rules in which an application depends, in part, on a person’s marital status. And not a single one that I am aware of contains a little checkoff box with the designation of “civil union.”

Please spare me the nonsense about marriage being strictly a religious ceremony based upon a couple’s particular supernatural beliefs at that particular point in time.

Does a church issue a marriage license? Does a religion have to be involved in any way, shape or form in order for a marriage to be legal?

I rest my case.

No one invented marriage any more than someone invented the barter system.

For thousands of years, marriage was little more than a somewhat legal contract to share property between families, and this held true whether it was a 15-year-old daughter or a donkey, and in many cases probably both.

And now marriage has evolved over the millennia as a natural and social institution that is good for survival as a species and good for society in general (though not required, the procreation segment is indeed helpful, if not downright fun).

Sadly, love is not a requirement for the evidently sought-after label of “married,” but if two people want to be married, regardless of gender, and desire to enjoy all the splendiferous trappings that are included in the package (cough, cough), I see no legal, and certainly no moral, reason why any of us have a right to deny them such.

Being married has easily been the single most defining act of my entire life (both times), and I highly recommend it for any two consenting adults.

Though I am glad donkeys are no longer part of the deal.

Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes a weekly column. He can be reached at

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