• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • President Obama's Misdirection on Marriage: Send in the Petards

    The Washington Post is quick to note the soft underbelly of President Obama’s midstream decision to abandon legal support for the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

    In an unsigned editorial, the Post, which shares liberal objections to DOMA as public policy, points out how easily the Administration’s tactic of retreating from duly enacted law “could come back to haunt it.” The editorial cites the example of a future Republican Administration attempting to “sabotage” the Obama health care initiative by refusing to defend it.

    Being hoist with one’s own petard is reportedly an unpleasant experience. While seasoned legal observers point out that the President is certainly entitled to his own view of the constitutionality of statutes – and others have underscored how the weak defense of DOMA can actually be replaced now with strong congressional involvement – the off–on, midstream character of the President’s decision here amounts to an ominous precedent that people across the political spectrum should view with concern. What is good for the geese of 2011 may appeal very much to the ganders of 2013 and beyond.

    The Post concludes that the “best way” to eliminate DOMA “is to work with lawmakers to erase the law from the books.” That sentence alone underscores why the Obama Administration may be shying away from the hard work of legislative debate and persuasion. To put the matter plainly, the opponents of traditional marriage have had very limited success in engaging legislatures. The Defense of Marriage Act passed Congress in 1996 by wide margins. In the years since, nearly 40 states have passed their own versions of DOMA. Thirty-one states have held popular votes and put constitutional amendments in place to preserve man–woman marriage. Not a single state has voted down such a measure. The cumulative popular vote to date for such amendments is roughly 64 percent in favor.

    In Massachusetts, a popular vote was forestalled under the commonwealth’s complex rules for such proceedings. In the District of Columbia, a legislative maneuver has blocked a popular vote favored by a majority in the city. In Maryland, where same-sex marriage is on the verge of being approved by the General Assembly and sent to the governor, a public referendum to overturn it stands a strong chance of being put on the 2012 ballot. In Indiana, the state House of Representatives voted by a margin of 70–26 last week, in a result that received little media attention, to put on the state ballot a constitutional amendment protecting marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Action in other states is mixed, but it appears possible that Maryland’s will be the only state legislature to approve redefining marriage in 2011—and that law may well prove short-lived.

    The Obama Administration’s case for dropping its already-meager defense of traditional marriage is that there is simply no rational argument to be made for it. The assertion is absurd on its own terms, but it is also clearly not the view of millions of Americans in dozens of states. The very irrational argument that support for traditional marriage is akin to racial bigotry also cannot stand up to reasoned debate. Proponents of traditional marriage have never feared the people or shied away from the hue and cry of the legislative arena. The Washington Post is right on that general principle, and that is why yesterday’s announcement by President Obama is about more than one hot-button issue—it’s about the whole of our republican form of government.

    Posted in Obamacare [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to President Obama's Misdirection on Marriage: Send in the Petards

    1. West Texan says:

      As I said in Conn's blog, any law that limits social progressives at the national level excels at passing constitutional muster. On the other hand, federal overreach into the domestic sovereign affairs of the states violates the constitution.

    2. Chuck Anziulewicz says:

      If part of the President's job is to "preserve, protect, and defend" the Constitution, then he has made the correct decision here. There was never any point in defending something as clearly unconstitutional as the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act." DOMA sets up differing legal standards for Gay and Straight couples. Because of DOMA, even Gay couples who are legally married in Iowa or Massachusetts are unrecognized by the federal government for the purposes of tax law and Social Security; obviously this violates the 14th Amendment. Also, unlike married Straight couples, married Gay couples become "UN-married" if they move across state lines, so DOMA violates the "Full Faith & Credit" clause.

      Face it: There's no constitutional justification for denying law-abiding, taxpaying Gay couples the exact same legal benefits that Straight couples have always taken for granted. Religious beliefs are irrelevant to this debate, because (1) the United States is not theocracy, and (2) churches will continue to be free to conduct or deny ceremonies to whomever they want. Procreation and parenting are irrelevant, since (1) couples do not have to marry to have children, and (2) the ability or even desire to have children is not a prerequisite for getting a marriage license.

      This is simply a matter of equal treatment under the law.

    3. Bobbie says:

      It raises suspicion on various levels. Will his arrogance of today's law eventually toll in sharia law?

    4. Norman H. Jackson says:

      query: can the speaker of the house of representatives and or others in the congress bring a legal action for a writ of mandamus to require the president to defend and enforce a statute they properly enacted, namely the defense of marriage act?

      would someone who knows the answer, please advise me whether this procedure is possible? thank you.

    5. Karen Grube, San Die says:

      Okay, I won't be as eloquent here as the above posters. All I want to say is that EVERYONE who reads this article needs to call their Member of Congress and Speaker Boehner immediately and tell them to assign counsel to defend DOMA!!! AND, everyone should also call the House Armed Services Committee and remind them that Secretary Gates flat-out lied to them when he said DOMA would prevent same-sex couples from shacking up in military married housing. Well, if DOMA is overturned, guess what? We'll have military same-sex couples yelling and screaming to live together in military housing. This is completely outrageous and disgusting and every single one of you needs to call the House about this! NOW!

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.