Jul 5, 2009

Despite some confusion, Obama still plans on overturning DOMA.

UPDATE:

Despite some recent confusion, not to mention outrage from the LGBT community at actions that appeared to the contrary, President Obama continues to repeat his clear intent to overturn DOMA.


The recent events began when the text specifically calling for the repeal of DOMA disappeared from the White House's web site (see previous blog post). The remaining text still implies the administration's intent to repeal DOMA, even though it is less direct. No explanation has been given for this change.

This was followed by a brief filed by the Department of Justice that defends DOMA from a pending lawsuit: Arthur Smelt And Christopher Hammer v. United States Of America and State Of California. Many thought if Obama were truly against DOMA, he would have directed the DOJ to allow the lawsuit to proceed without offering any defense of DOMA. Previous presidents have done so when they were in favor of allowing certain laws to be challenged this way. However, Obama's administration has said they were simply allowing the DOJ to rightfully do its job: to uphold and defend the law of the land.

However, many in the LGBT community took further issue with even the language used in this brief. The claim that same-sex marriage had been compared in the brief to incest or pedophilia was spread like wildfire across the internet. Congressman Barney Frank, a lead proponent of LGBT interests, called the DOJ's actions "a big mistake." Later, he retracted that statement with the following, "Now that I have read the brief, I believe that the administration made a conscientious and largely successful effort to avoid inappropriate rhetoric."

Unfortunately, many repeated Congressman Frank's mistake of not actually reading the brief for themselves and instead reacted to loose interpretations of it, which were most likely intended to incite and outrage. The brief is actually fairly easy and worthwhile reading for the average person. It is 54 double-spaced pages, 12 of which are a table of contents, references, title page, etc. For the most part, it avoids difficult to follow 'legalese.'

The DOJ’s brief in fact implies and lays the groundwork for an argument that Obama had made long ago: that the first section of DOMA is unnecessary and redundant to existing laws. This first section was written as a response to concerns that the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution would force states opposed to same-sex marriages to accept those performed in other states. Contrary to this concern, the brief cites examples of how states have never been forced to honor varying marriage laws of other states. Those examples include differing minimum age requirements for marriage as well as acceptable distance of relation (these examples are what were commonly misinterpreted as comparing same-sex marriage to incest and pedophilia). According to these examples, and other legal reasoning, the brief defends section 1 of DOMA as the government simply restating or reaffirming existing laws regarding states' rights to refuse to recognize marriages performed in other states.

Interestingly enough, in response to criticism a week after the DOJ's brief was filed, Obama made a statement that DOMA "...interferes with states' rights, and it's time we overturned it." This isn't the first time Obama has stated that DOMA interferes with states' rights, and yet he still has not attempted to back up such a large claim. Indeed, his claim is a direct contradiction of the DOJ's brief, as described previously. Byron Babione, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, called Obama's statement on DOMA "a nonsense statement" and goes on to say, "DOMA actually protects the right of states to determine social policy with respect to marriage."

To conclude, nothing has really changed yet in regards to this issue. Obama and the Democratic Party still plan on repealing DOMA without any better plan to take its place. Rather than seeking for a solution with hopes of a bi-lateral consensus, Obama still intends to forcibly grant recognition and rights to same-sex couples – rather than allow individual states to make decisions regarding this issue. The rift between the opposing sides on this issue will continue to grow deeper and society will be changed against the will of the people by a president who thinks he knows better. Fortunately, Obama is just one of many elected leaders who must collaborate to overturn DOMA. Most of these leaders still know they can only challenge the voice of the people so much before others who listen better will be elected in their place. Let Obama and your representatives in Congress know that you won’t accept a repeal of DOMA without a new law in its place that is intended to bring consensus and agreement among the opposing sides. Surely we can work together for a better way to grant civil rights to same-sex couples without imposing the will of the federal government upon the people and our states. The partisan choice of a single man here is unwarranted.

Stay tuned to this blog for future updates on this issue.

Jan 20, 2009

On day one, President Obama officially endorses the repeal of DOMA

UPDATE:

Among many other positions he has posted on WhiteHouse.gov that favor liberal viewpoints, President Obama wastes no time in officially endorsing on day one the repeal of DOMA, as well as adoption rights for couples regardless of sexual orientation.



Nov 4, 2008

The fight to protect DOMA is just getting started!

UPDATE:

Now that Barack Obama has been elected our next president, our work is well cut out for us. Updates on when he takes action on this issue can be found here in the future. Now would be a good time to contact your state's representatives to let them know how you would have them stand when a bill to repeal DOMA hits Congress - most likely sometime in 2009.



Oct 27, 2008

Barack Obama's vow to repeal DOMA will lead to the end of all states' marriage protection amendments!

Summary:

Barack Obama has vowed to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) if elected. Once DOMA has been repealed, state amendments banning recognition of same-sex marriages will almost certainly be ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court. This fact should be in the headlines of every newspaper, seeing how the majority of people in the US have voted for these amendments in their states!

Surely we can work together for a better way to grant civil rights to same-sex couples without imposing the will of the federal government upon the people and our states. The partisan choice of a single man here is unwarranted and will have negative consequences for nearly everyone.






Q&A:


Q:
I thought Biden said in the VP debate that he and Obama are against gay marriage, and Palin agreed they share the same opinion on this?

A:
For some reason or another, both campaigns are avoiding making this a "wedge" issue. I think at least the McCain camp is worried about losing more votes than they would gain by pushing it. And it is true Obama has said he doesn't believe in redefining marriage. It's just that repealing DOMA unfortunately has the indirect, yet immediate, effect of exposing states to be sued to redefine it.


Q:
Obama is just one person. He can't single-handedly repeal DOMA. What does it matter if he's promised to repeal it when there's no way he'll gain enough support to do so? Isn't this just a so-called, "empty campaign promise?"

A:
It is untrue that Obama would not have enough support necessary to repeal DOMA. In order to repeal DOMA, he would need the support of the majority of legislators in Congress. The majority of seats in the House and Senate are currently held by Democrats. That number is expected to go up after the election on November 4th, enough so that the usual means a minority of Congress members can take to block measures by the majority will become unavailable. In addition, the Democratic Party has adopted a stand in favor of same-sex marriages, and their platform states, "We oppose the Defense of Marriage Act and all attempts to use this issue to divide us." Accordingly, the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has recently expressed her support of any attempt by Barack Obama to repeal DOMA, should he become president. Finally, supposing all the above conditions are met, it is quite likely Obama would attempt to push a measure through that would repeal DOMA within his first year as president. This is because legislators prefer to take care of the most controversial issues while the public still holds a positive opinion of them (evidenced by their recent election to office), and while they still hold a majority of seats in Congress.


Q:
Currently the majority of the US Supreme Court justices are conservatives. What makes you think there's any chance they would actually rule a state's marriage amendment as unconstitutional?

A:
First, it's unlikely the majority of justices will remain conservative. Second, in 2003 the Supreme Court ruled on a case, "Lawrence v. Texas," that struck down the anti-sodomy law in Texas. An issue central to the case was whether laws can be justified merely through invocations of "morality" without demonstrating any actual harm. Many proponents of same-sex marriage cite scientific studies that claim children raised by same-sex parents show no developmental differences from children raised by opposite-sex parents in heterosexual marriages. Accordingly, many believe that Lawrence casts considerable doubt on laws restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples, e.g., as cited in this case.

This issue was a major concern for Justice Scalia in his dissent with Lawrence. Though Scalia said he has "nothing against homosexuals, or any other group, promoting their agenda through normal democratic means," he concluded, with this decision, the Court "has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda." Scalia argued that the Court has an obligation to decide cases neutrally. Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003)

Regardless, it's not exactly clear where the court would stand if a case against a state's marriage amendment were brought before it. The concurring opinion of Justice O'Connor did state that "preserving the traditional institution of marriage" is indeed a "legitimate state interest." However, leaving this decision up to the Supreme Court by repealing DOMA is not a risk worth taking. Doctrine and tolerance aside, we are not well equipped to make such fundamental changes without taking any safeguards. Unfortunately, this is one of those issues where there's no turning back once the door has been opened, so a mentality of "let's just see what happens" won't work here. I'm not particularly opposed to same gender couples receiving equal federal benefits, but repealing either part of DOMA pits states directly against the federal government. It's a bad way to achieve that equality. The only people who want to see this settled by lawsuits are the lawyers who want to cash in from that approach.


Q:
What is the Defense of Marriage Act and why does it matter?

A:
The Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law in 1996 by Bill Clinton. It was instituted in order to subvert the right-wing's attempt back then to enact the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution and had no purpose of being an "anti-gay" law. DOMA has two key parts. First, it stipulates that no state need recognize a marriage between persons of the same sex, even if the marriage was recognized in another state. Second, DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages for any purpose, even if recognized by one of the states.

Obama seeks to go beyond Hillary Clinton's intentions, who wanted to repeal the second part of DOMA, but not the first. The first part of DOMA was specified due to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the US Constitution. This clause requires states within the United States to have to respect the "public acts, records, and judicial rulings" of other states.


Q:
Doesn't the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the US Constitution require states to recognize the "judicial proceedings" of other states, but not so much the "political acts," such as marriages?

A:
If this interpretation of the Full Faith and Credit Clause was all there is to it, why did enough of our government's leaders agree that the Defense of Marriage Act was necessary to pass in the first place? Besides, do you really think everyone is going to just turn and look the other way while Ohio (and other states with marriage amendments) recognizes heterosexual marriages from Massachusetts (or other states allowing same-sex marriages), but not any of their homosexual marriages? Once the federal government recognizes same-sex marriages, that provides grounds for anti-discrimination suits, in the very least, against states who do this.


Q:
Why don't we leave marriage up to the churches and let the government regulate civil unions? So, that way marriages are supplanted by civil unions, making who can marry a moot issue to the government.


A:
That does sound appealing in some ways. Many churches, (for example, the LDS) already consider the religious ceremony the principal gesture while the government's recognition of it an added benefit (to both the couple and to the state). It does bring to mind some weighty questions, however. First, I'm not convinced that approach would sooth grounds for discrimination suits, in fact I think it would actually encourage them (since the government would no longer recognize marriages, it wouldn't recognize one between a man and a woman as unique). Then I wonder, at that point, what would be the intended benefit of civil unions that the government should ordain them and who are eligible for them (or rather, who are not)? Further, would it be in the public's best interest for the government to still specifically encourage heterosexual marriages/civil unions/whatever you call it, somehow? Perhaps another way to ask that, does society benefit when children are raised by traditional parents (indeed, a sensitive topic)? How involved / not involved should the government be in familial & social issues, vs. focusing on schools & education - if those can even really be separated? Most of us already feel confident in the answers we have to those questions and so I'll forego further debate over them.


Q:
Aren't there more pressing issues right now, like the economy?


A:
The economy will return to normal soon enough - regardless. However, changes to the definition of marriage have a lasting, if not immediate, effect. Among their numerous invaluable contributions, strong families contribute more to a strong economy in the long term than good financial polices ever can. Troubled economy or not – my values are not for sale.






Full Description:
I'M SORRY, MR. OBAMA – I LIKE YOU, BUT WE DISAGREE.

Barack Obama is opposed to California's Proposition 8, and states that if elected, he will advocate legislation that expands federal hate crimes law and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act to specifically include sexual orientation and gender identity (McCain's position is, "that enforcement of existing law could work rather than passing special laws for special categories of people"). Obama will also seek to eliminate the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy. But, most concerning is Obama's further intent to fully repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. You can read more about Obama and this issue at the links at the bottom of this page.

The Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law in 1996 by Bill Clinton. It was instituted in order to subvert the right-wing's attempt back then to enact the Federal Marriage Amendment to the Constitution. DOMA has two key parts. First, it stipulates that no state need recognize a marriage between persons of the same sex, even if the marriage was recognized in another state. Second, DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages for any purpose, even if recognized by one of the states.

Obama seeks to go beyond Hillary Clinton's intentions, who wanted to repeal the second part of DOMA, but not the first. The first part of DOMA was specified due to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution. This clause requires states within the United States to have to respect the "public acts, records, and judicial rulings" of other states. So, even though Proposition 8 would change very little in how same gender couples are recognized within the state of California (because for several years now California has already had laws granting domestic partners the same civil rights as married couples), it would have a massive effect on other states if DOMA is repealed. California and Massachusetts now grant marriage licenses to non-resident same-sex couples, which makes DOMA the only thing protecting the rest of the states from being sued to recognize these marriages.

Obama spoke well in his speech accepting the Democratic Party's nomination as president when he said, "I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination." I agree whole-heartedly with this statement, as would any true follower of the Christian faith. However, I wish Obama would have stated that we can also agree these things can and should be realized without exposing religious organizations and individuals to excessive lawsuits and retaliated intolerance for their beliefs. I wish I could say the First Amendment were sufficient to protect religious freedoms in regards to this issue, but it is clear these are being attacked even while DOMA is still in effect (refer to examples contained in the LDS church's statement, linked below). Obama thinks existing laws are insufficient to protect one according to their sexual orientation and gender identity, yet he is one-sided not to think the same thing of laws intended to protect religious freedoms. In fact, much of the language he uses to discuss his intentions regarding this issue does not indicate a desire to satisfy both sides without compromising either of their entitled beliefs, but rather sounds like a patronizing desire to educate those who oppose.

Now, don't get me wrong: I like Obama as a person – in fact, I like many things about him over McCain. I can understand why he would choose his particular position regarding this issue (and would be a little surprised if he didn't). I also acknowledge that Obama himself is a religious AND intelligent person (two characteristics that don't go together according to today's pop-culture). Now, some of his other policies don't sit well with me either. However, I honestly would still be undecided about whom to vote for if it weren't for his plans to repeal DOMA. No other issue is going to have as big an impact on the future of our nation as this one. No other success can compensate for a failure here. Our country has proven itself incredibly resilient in surviving wars, plagues, economic and natural disasters – you name it. But, this issue of same-sex marriages, if not handled correctly, can tear this country apart.

Doctrine and tolerance aside, we are not well equipped to make such fundamental changes without taking any safeguards. Unfortunately, this is one of those issues where there's no turning back once the door has been opened, so a mentality of "let's just see what happens" won't work here. I'm not particularly opposed to same gender couples receiving equal federal benefits, but repealing either part of DOMA pits states directly against the federal government. It's a bad way to achieve that equality. The only people who want to see this settled by lawsuits are the lawyers who want to cash in from that approach.

If there aren't enough voters who are bothered by Obama's stance on this issue, I sincerely hope he will try to find a better way to address it if he becomes president. Otherwise, I'm all for McCain. I don't have the answers myself, but I want leaders who are willing to take a look at both sides of this issue and move forward cautiously, keeping the needs of people from both sides in mind. Reading the last article I’ve linked below, "Thinking About McCain," by David Brooks, makes me feel more encouraged about McCain – especially the part about him being humble, for a politician. That's a quality I value more than any other in a good leader – a quality I think Bush has failed to adequately promote, thus becoming the greatest contributor to his downfall in the public eye. I want a leader who can, as Brooks says, emphasize his own failings with more vigor than his accomplishments. Brooks goes on to say that if elected, McCain "will run the least partisan administration in recent times." Since either side is supercilious to think they have all the answers, that's something I could really go for nowadays – someone who brings both sides to the table rather than just one.




Further Reading / Sources:

Why the LDS church has taken an active stand in in defending marriage as between a man and a woman.
(If their doctrinal explanations are of no interest to you, you can skip past that to the sections that discuss the legal and social ramifications the church is concerned about – starting around the subtitle, "Tolerance, Same-Sex Marriage and Religious Freedom.")

"Would Obama Position Spread Same-Sex Marriage?"
"Obama promises 'gays' 'strongest possible bill'"
"Same-sex marriage: Election Center 2008"
"Media Silent on Pelosi Intent to Kill DOMA"
"Why Calif. marriage matters here"
"Democratic Party Platform, 2008"
"Dems get ready to rule"
"Thinking About McCain"



Video:

Bill Clinton (who signed DOMA into law) states that DOMA is not an "anti-gay" law:

 

SUMMARY

Q&A

FULL DESCRIPTION

Further Reading / Sources / Video


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