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Why Ted Cruz’s ‘Divorce At The Border’ Bill Isn’t That Scary

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) CREDIT: AP PHOTO/TONY GUTIERREZ
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) CREDIT: AP PHOTO/TONY GUTIERREZ

Social conservatives have been looking for ways to circumvent the advancement of marriage equality both at the state and federal levels, and Congress has even considered a few bills that would attempt to maintain discrimination against same-sex couples. This week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) have resurrected one of those proposals, but it is likely to be neutered by the Supreme Court this June even if it does become law.

The State Marriage Defense Act would essentially eliminate any “place of celebration” standards for same-sex marriages for federal recognition purposes. A couple could only access federal benefits if they were in a state that recognized their marriage; if a married same-sex couple crossed into a state that banned same-sex marriage, they’d essentially be divorced at the border and lose any federal recognition of their union.

Currently, the reverse is true for almost all federal benefits. If a couple marries in a state where their marriage is recognized, the federal government will continue to recognize that marriage wherever they go. Congress has not closed the loopholes on two exceptions, Social Security and veterans benefits, but all other benefits follow couples everywhere.

Cruz and Weber argue that states should be respected when they set their own marriage policy. “The State Marriage Defense Act helps safeguard the ability of states to preserve traditional marriage for their citizens,” Cruz explained in a press release. Weber similarly insisted that the bill will “help restore the 10th Amendment, affirm the authority of states to define and regulate marriage, as well as, provide clarity to federal agencies seeking to determine who qualifies as a spouse for the purposes of federal law.”

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Cruz’s bill currently only has 11 other co-sponsors in the Senate, and Weber’s only has 22 others in the House, but even if this legislation picks up steam, it might not matter much. All signs point to the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality nationwide this summer. Thus, even if the State Marriage Defense Act passed, it would do nothing to impede same-sex marriage, as couples would enjoy recognition in all 50 states. If Cruz and Weber were lucky, they’d ban federal recognition of same-sex marriage in only 13 states for a few mere months.