Author of Adam and Steve, a novel about reexamining your prejudices

Posts tagged ‘Defense of Marriage Act’

Governor Christy – the majority is NOT always right

Governor of New Jersey at a town hall in Hills...

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Governor Christy, the moderate Republican governor of New Jersey, has made his position on marriage equality abundantly clear. He is against it. Nonetheless, he is willing to accept same-sex marriage if a majority of the people of New Jersey, by referendum, tell him to. The granting of basic civil and human rights to a minority should never be left to the will of the majority.  These rights, including the right to marry someone of one’s choosing, are not the majority’s to “give”. It is the epitome of arrogance for the Governor to think otherwise, even if he is willing to go along with the majority on the issue.

Governor Christy has now compounded his error. On Wednesday’s Ask the Governor radio show on NJ 101.5 FM, the Governor condemned the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision voiding a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act. He said the decision was not only “bad”, but “just another example of judicial supremacy rather than … the government [being] run by the people we actually vote for,” and “incredibly insulting to those … members of Congress who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act.”

Governor Christy’s words are astounding in light of this country’s history. Majorities have abridged and, in some instances, obliterated minority rights. Surely, he needs no reminder:

  • of the Jim Crow laws, enacted by the majority, that relegated African-Americans to second-class citizens and assured that the White majority would never suffer African-American proximity in restaurants, movies, hotels, schools and bathrooms to mention only a few legislated locations;
  • of the miscegenation laws, enacted by the majority, that banned inter-racial marriage in many states so that the blood of the White majority would not be diluted;
  • of the sexist laws that gave control over females’ bodies to the male legislative majority who enacted those laws;
  • of the homophobic laws, like the Defense of Marriage Act,  enacted by the majority, that withheld rights and benefits because the sexual orientation of the affected individuals was different from that of the majority, and that

the Supreme Court of the United States protected the rights of the minority in all of these cases.

Governor Christy should be applauded for providing moderation at a time when moderation is critically important to the viability of our two-party system of government. However, the Governor is running for reelection and harbors Presidential aspirations, both of which may account for Wednesday’s blatant appeal to the Conservative faction of his party. His position on marriage equality, his re-election campaign and his political aspirations aside, the Governor’s denouncement of the Supreme Court’s role in insuring minority rights is foolish in light of the majority’s history of malevolence. Whether by referendum or by legislative enactment, the majority cannot be the ultimate arbiter of minority rights. Sadly, that reality should be apparent to all Americans, including Governor Christy.

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I’m from Washington, so why should I care?

A few days ago, someone said to me: “Finally, I live in a state where same-sex marriage is legal. So, I’m just not that concerned about the issue any longer.” For a moment, I was stumped for the proper response. “So long as one couple is discriminated against, then all couples are discriminated against,” appeared to be the obvious rejoinder. Though true, it misses the mark. The speaker had always cared deeply about the issue, and deserved better than a facile response. A little more thought made me realize that the statement stemmed from a misunderstanding of our Federal government’s role in the marriage equality debate.

In 1996, Congress enacted the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  That act permits the Federal government to not recognize legal same-sex marriages performed in any state of our union. The Feds non-recognition of same-sex marriage results in same-sex married couples being denied over 1,100 Federal rights and benefits which flow to opposite-sex married couples.  Those rights and benefits include, for example, the right oppostite-sex couples have to:  transfer property between spouses tax-free; receive Social Security spousal benefits; and not suffer the sale of their home upon the death of one of the spouses.  In short, a same-sex couple legally married in, for example, Washington does not enjoy the same Federal rights and benefits as enjoyed by an opposite-sex couple married in Washington.  That’s the rub.

The legitimacy of DOMA – whether same-sex couples will continue to be discriminated against for Federal purposes – is now before the Supreme Court. Hopefully, the Court will end this discrimination, since there appears to be no legally sufficient reason to continue treating one lawful marriage differently from another lawful marriage. Congress may wish it to be so, but its prejudices do not rise to a legally sufficient reason for imposing those prejudices on the states.

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Marriage Equality is a Conservative Issue

There’s a major disconnect between conservative values and conservative politics on the issue of marriage equality. I am at a loss to understand why political conservatives oppose same-sex marriage rather than vociferously and whole-heartedly support marriage equality.

Maybe I’m nuts, but doesn’t it strike you as odd that political conservatives who support the Defense of Marriage Act and its denial of basic civil and human rights to same-sex couples are the same individuals who believe government should keep its nose out of our private lives, which I assume includes our bedrooms.

Maybe I’m nuts, but doesn’t it strike you as odd that political conservatives who support DOMA and its countermanding of the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the United States Constitution are the same individuals who believe the Constitution should be strictly construed, which I assume includes the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause.

Maybe I’m nuts, but doesn’t it strike you as odd that political conservatives who espouse, as a true conservative value, committed and stable relationships through government-sanctioned marriage are the same individuals who refuse to afford this same commitment and stability to families in which the parents are same-sex.

Marriage Equality is an issue that screams for intellectual honesty from political conservatives. So, why are political conservatives disingenuous on an issue at the very core of their family values? Politically, it makes no sense.  But, politics is probably not at the root of this inconsistency. It strikes me that being opposed to gay and lesbian civil rights has more to do with misplaced religious beliefs than with political beliefs.  It’s time for conservatives not only to stop their opposition to, but lead the fight for marriage equality.  Since marriage equality is four square with conservative values and philosophy, it’s a  conservative issue whose time has come.

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Defend Marriage From DOMA

“Slavery, sir, it’s done,” were the words President Lincoln, in the recently released movie Lincoln, says to the envoy from the Confederate States. So can it be said for the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA, as it is called.   Marriage inequality, my follow Americans, it’s done.

The Supreme Court is to decide this term whether DOMA is Constitutional or not.  Hopefully, the Supremes will see what is readily apparent to civil rights advocates.  DOMA, Congress’ shameful and degrading slap on the gay and lesbian community, is unconstitutional and should be rended null and unenforceable. Here’s what it’s about.

DOMA was federally enacted in 1996 and signed into law by Bill Clinton, one of our more liberal Presidents. It has only three invidious sections. Section 1 defines marriage for Federal purposes as exclusively between a man and a woman.  Coupled with Section 3 which permits the Federal government to disregard same-sex marriages for Federal purposes, same-sex couples are denied over 1,100 federal rights that benefit heterosexual couples, including:

  • joint parenting rights;
  • joint adoption rights;
  • status as next-of-kin for hospital visits and medical decisions;
  • wrongful death benefits for a surviving spouse;
  • tax-free transfer of property between spouses;
  • spousal rights to Social Security benefits;
  • exemption from “due on sale” clauses in home mortgages when one spouse dies; and
  • rights to funeral and bereavement leave,

just to name a few.   One of the less obvious, but more odious effects of the law is as follows: If a married couple is, for example, comprised of two men, one of the men will never be permitted to be the father of their child, because the child will already have a father.

The second provision of DOMA authorizes each state to ignore same-sex marriages performed legally in another jurisdiction. Here’s were the Congressional slap becomes apparent. Article IV, Section 1 of our Federal Constitution – a provision which helped create a federal union from our many States – requires that each State recognize and respect the laws and acts of every other State. That’s why, Virginia, for example, is required to recognize a Connecticut driver’s license or a heterosexual marriage legally performed in Connecticut.  Because of DOMA, however, Virginia is not required to recognize a same-sex marriage legally performed in Connecticut, and, as of today, it does not.

If marriage needs defending, then all marriages need defending. When one marriage is under attack, then all marriages are under attack. What the feds took from the gay and lesbian community, they can take from the heterosexual community.  Indeed, today marriage needs defending. It needs defending from Congress, and the Supreme Court is poised to do just that.


President Bill Clinton signing DOMA into law. Image curtesy of:

Marriage Equality – A Human Rights Issue

We don’t really need the Supreme Court to tell us that basic human and civil rights are our inheritance as citizens of the United States of America. Do we?  Hasn’t the legality of marriage equality and the illegality of the Defense of Marriage Act already been decided in this country a multitude of times in different contexts?  Why must we go this route again and again to make our basic human rights and our Constitutional promises a reality to ever-widening groups of Americans?

The battle was literally fought, through guns and war, at the very inception of this nation when we banded together against the Goliath Great Britain for our freedom, and created our country founded on inalienable rights. Then we fought again, Americans against Americans, in our horrendous Civil War.  The outcome of that war expanded the group benefitting from those inalienable rights and our Constitutional freedoms.

Many times groups of Americans have come before our courts to ask to be recognized as having our Constitutionally mandated inalienable and basic rights. The courts have extended these rights and freedoms to woman and to African-Americans, to name two such groups. These decisions should have been foregone conclusions based on the promise of our Constitution and the many, many Americans who have died fighting for our freedoms.  Even if they were not foregone conclusions, at least we now have a body of law to serve as precedent for gay, lebian and transgender equality.

So what is the difference between the gay, lesbian and transgender quest for equality and the other hard fought and won quests that came before?  Nothing.  Like all before, arguments were made that God was against the particular equality being sought. I don’t know about you, but I have a really hard time getting into God’s head, and a harder time carrying out God’s vast plan to supposedly keep certain of God’s creation inferior under man’s law. Besides, we are a nation founded on the separation of church and state. What your God may find repulsive, mine may not, and those difference are not legal theories upon which our courts can or should base their decisions.

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Injustice to a few is injustice to all. I know it has been said many times before, but it bears mentioning again. We must stand together, as Americans of all stripes, to assure that the very foundations of our Constitutional freedoms are available to all Americans, regardless of race, gender, national origin and sexual orientation.

You might find Cory Booker’s human rights speech enlightening on this subject.


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