The Defense of Marriage Act almost looks like a quaint relic despite not being that old at all, signed into law in 1996 by then-president Bill Clinton.
Well, quaint except for the fact that the Defense of Marriage Act denies fairly-average and definitely essential civil rights to gay people and is largely outdated even though not even two decades have passed since the legislation was signed into law. DOMA (as the Defense of Marriage Act is often abbreviated) was endorsed at the time by Republicans, who indicated the party “reject[ed] the distortion of [anti-discrimination] laws to cover sexual preference, and we endorse[d] the Defense of Marriage Act to prevent states from being forced to recognize same-sex unions.”
The Defense of Marriage Act was the unfortunate culmination of a few decades’ worth of rumblings from the gay community that they would like to be treated like human beings along with their straight counterparts, and basically granted states the right not to recognize a same sex union granted in another state, ensuring no one was forced to give gay people equal standing.
And indeed, even now in 2012, no one is “forced” to recognize same-sex unions, but as the law is challenged again, DOMA opponents have a new and powerful ally- corporate America.
Support for same-sex unions and those who might be involved in them is a newish thing, as the issue of same-sex marriage was always considered to be too controversial for companies to touch- and even liberal Bill Clinton said at the time DOMA passed that gay marriage was an “unnecessarily divisive” issue. But in recent years, the clamor for equality has forced even companies fearing a backlash to come out in support of granting gay people the same rights as straight ones, and nearly 50 massive companies including Xerox, Nike, Goldman Sachs and RealNetworks have all “come out” in favor of marriage equality ahead of DOMA’s upcoming test.
According to one attorney who spoke to Politico about the newest challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, there has been a “seismic shift” in the last 5-10 years in public opinion about gay marriage.