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Court Ruling against DOMA Receives Seattle Pastor’s Approval

October 22nd, 2012

New York federal court of appeals rules DOMA unconstitutional

DOMA and J. Manny Santiago

Manny Santiago, a Baptist pastor from Seattle, has claimed that DOMA discriminates against churches as well as same-sex couples.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the proposed federal legislation that would make it illegal for same-sex couples across the country to marry, was ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. federal appeals court in the State of New York on Oct. 18. This ruling comes a couple of months after a Boston appeals court made a similar decision on the proposed legislation.

The ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act was brought to the court by a woman named Edith Windsor, an 83 year old who wished to marry a woman. Windsor was charged more than $363,000 in estate taxes by the federal government because she was ineligible for the benefit deductions available to heterosexual spouses. The court decided that same-sex couples’ ineligibility for federal benefits is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Legal experts say that decisions like these are highly symbolic, and the legal battle will ultimately be held at the U.S. Supreme Court level.

Seattle pastor says DOMA discriminates against churches

In an article in The Washington Post, J. Manny Santiago, a reverend at Seattle’s University Baptist Church, voiced support for the decision. He argued that DOMA does more than discriminate against people in the LGBT community hoping to get married; it also discriminates against the religious groups hoping to marry them. Pastors in the Universal Life Church will likely agree with his arguments.

Reverend Santiago argued in his Washington Post editorial that the court’s decision was fueled by the idea that the government cannot, under the rules laid out by the U.S. Constitution, strip citizens of given rights. One of the roles of government, he writes, is to protect the minority from the majority any time the latter wants to infringe on their rights as former. The U.S. government is set up with a system of checks and balances to ensure that minorities are afforded all the protections the Constitution allows them, Santiago wrote, and ordained pastors at the Universal Life Church will likely see the injustice of allowing any majority to take personal rights away from any minority.

Manny Santiago: same sex marriage promotes fairness for both churches and same-sex couples

Universal life Church ministers don't need to support DOMA

Rev. Santiago's support of same-sex marriage demonstrates that it is possible for ordained Universal Life Church ministers to support something that many ministers do not.

Furthermore, Santiago writes that judicial judgments that protect marriage equality are promoting fairness for both same-sex couples and religious institutions. Religious groups benefit because such decisions:

(1) protect the freedom for citizens to practice religion in whichever way they choose, and…

(2) uphold the idea that religious groups are free from government regulation so long as they follow the laws.

These arguments fit right in with the ideals of the Universal Life Church: personal religious choices should be protected, as should the rights of the minority. While so-called family values organizations complain that marriage equality would infringe on their religious liberty, it is same-sex couples, and their families, communities, and churches, who are truly hurt by marriage inequality.

DOMA asks Universal Life Church ministers, among other religious leaders, to discriminate amongst their congregations

Finally, Santiago writes that the Defense of Marriage Act prevents clergy members from giving same-sex couple in their congregations the same type of care they give others. Many people become ordained by the Universal Life Church for the specific purpose of overseeing same sex marriage, and DOMA discriminates against them, too. By being denied same sex marriage, gays and lesbians are being denied important protections and legal privileges that millions of other citizens enjoy. DOMA treats them as second class citizens, just as many racial minorities were before the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s.

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