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Professor addresses DOMA ruling

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A NKU Chase Law professor spoke about the Supreme Court’s June ruling of the Defense of Marriage Act at an event sponsored by the American Constitution Society on Sept. 23.

The organization brings in speakers to talk about the Constitution, according to its president Belinda Gullette.

The speaker, Jack Harrison, teaches a class at Chase on sexual orientation and the law. He began his speech by pointing out how far gay rights have come.

Harrison criticized DOMA, saying, “Suddenly the federal government is interjecting in an area that had historically been a state issue.”

Harrison said that there are 13 states that have legalized same-sex marriage. He also said that in Kentucky, a person can be fired from their job because of their sexual orientation.

There are five cities in Kentucky that have fairness ordinances which forbid that, Harrison said.Those cities are Louisville, Lexington, Covington, Vicco and the most recent being Frankfort which passed the ordinance last month.

“If you had told me in 1973 when I was a gay kid in the south, as a senior in highschool, that there would come a time when I would officiate at the wedding of a high school classmate, a male, and his same sex spouse, I would have laughed long and hard. It was simply inconceivable,” Harrison said at the beginning of his speech.

DOMA was passed in 1996 under the Clinton administration. In the same year, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was also put into place.

According to Harrison, Section 2 of DOMA says that states aren’t required to recognize same-sex marriages passed in other states. He also said that Section 3, which was overturned in United States v. Windsor case last June, stated that spousal benefits were defined to only mean opposite-sex marriages.

Gullette, a third year law student, said that the American Constitution Society was started as “the liberal answer to the Federalist Society.” The Federalist Society is another student organization gives money to different organizations to promote conservative activism.

“We said ‘Hey, we’re going to start our own organization because we deserve to have our own voices heard,’” Gullette said.

“I came to hear if this will be an overview of what the course was,” Bridget Quitter, a second year law student who attended the event said.

According to Harrison, the Windsor case was about a lesbian couple, Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, who were lawfully married in Ontario, Canada in 2007. In 2009, they moved to New York and Spyer died. Windsor, who was the sole beneficiary to her spouse’s estate, tried to claim the federal estate tax exemption for surviving spouses, but was denied under Section 3 of DOMA and was told to pay $363,053 in estate taxes. In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court found Section 3 unconstitutional and it was overturned.

“This affects a lot of aspects; it’s good to know what it’s going to affect,” Caitlin Myron, a second year law student who attended the event said.

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The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.
Professor addresses DOMA ruling