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(c) by Mary Griggs

This week, the Department of Justice sent out a press release that it would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act. After careful consideration, they determined that the act, as applied to legally married same sex couples, is unconstitutional.

The Defense of Marriage Act will remain in effect until Congress repeals it or the Supreme Court makes a determination on its legality. There are currently two lawsuits being brought to challenge the law and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has promised to sponsor a measure to repeal it.

Of course, almost immediately after the press release from the DOJ, a number of conservative commentators came out swinging that this move by the President and Department of Justice was the end of the world as we know it. Potential GOP nominee for President, Mike Huckabee , even went so far as to try to blame gays and lesbians for what he called a “$300 billion dad deficit in America.” I’m not sure what gays and lesbians have to do with fathers not stepping up to pay child support but Huckabee opposes gay marriage on the grounds that, according to him, it destroys traditional families.

Seriously? Has there ever been a documented report of roving gangs of gays and lesbians rampaging through American and forcible dragging heterosexuals from their marriages? The divorce rate has been pretty steady since the 1960’s and has more to do with the two people involved in the union than a social movement geared toward increasing marriages.

Several commentators even claimed that ending this discrimination is an affront to religious liberty. That’s right—for all citizens to be treated equally in respect to the benefits and responsibilities of marriage would actually impinge on someone else’s right to worship freely.

My response is that civil marriage for gay and lesbian couples does not affect religious marriages, religious institutions or clergy in any way. No religion would be forced to marry same-sex couples, or recognize same-sex marriages within the context of their religious beliefs.

Marriage is much more than church recognition—the General Accounting Office has identified 1,138 federal laws in which marital status is a factor. State and federal marriage laws provide a safety net of legal and economic protections for married couples and their children – including the ability to visit your spouse in the hospital and to inherit property without onerous tax burdens. There have been attempts to create marriage-like relationships, but these measures don’t provide the same security and protections.

It is about time the Federal government got out of the business of discrimination.