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Defense Of Marriage Act Decision and South Dakota: A Commentary

photo from U.S. Government

The Supreme Court decision to nullify the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) does not overturn any laws in South Dakota. Our state does not permit gay marriages, nor does it recognize gay marriages from other states.

The decision does treat gay and lesbian couples like heterosexual couples when it comes to all things federal when dealing with marriage, such as social security benefits, federal tax and federal estate laws, family leave, and immigration issues to name a few. South Dakota does not have an income tax tied to federal taxes, so no changes there either.

Also Wednesday, on a technicality, the court decided to allow a lower court decision overturning a voter approved ban on gay marriage to stand. By the end of July, gays will be able to legally wed in California. The court did NOT rule on the legality of state laws either banning or allowing gay marriage. They only dealt with federal issues on marriage.

So the religious and legalistic institution of marriage is safe in South Dakota.  Mississippi,  Alabama, Arkansas, and other Bible Belt States will probably allow gay marriage ahead of us.

I do not have a problem with two people of the same sex being able to make a legal commitment to each other (aka get married), with all the rights and responsibilities such a commitment entails. From my perspective the church is the place to sanctify the spiritual, emotional, and religious bond, not the legal one.

If a church or any clergy want to perform both the religious and legal ceremonies, I am fine with that. However, I think churches should not be required to act as agents for the state to create such legal ties.

Marriage licenses are issued by the state and are signed by clergy after the ceremony. If church doctrine and/or the individual pastor does not believe in the religious joining of two men or two women, they should not be required to perform the ceremony. Nor should the church have to fear the loss of church status from the government.

Obviously, I am projecting. However, I do expect this subject to be part of future discussions. We are going to have some very interesting debates.

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