Thursday, February 24, 2011

DOMA, Thank You President Obama

On September 21, 1996, the House and Congress passed and the President (Clinton) signed the infamous Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) legislation. DOMA was instituted in an effort to federally mandate that marriage be defined as a union between opposite sex individuals. Today it is used to keep complete marriage equality from happening. As I was watching the evening national news, I heard that President Obama feels that DOMA is unconstitutional. What makes this such a remarkable instance and caused me to stop in my tracks is that the President has stated clearly that DOMA, which denies marriage equality to same-sex couples, is wrong and unconstitutional. Now the debate will begin and take a different turn because now the LGBT community has gained a powerful ally in court, armed with a powerful argument. What is so interesting about this comment from the President is that just two years ago he infactically stated that marriage was between and man and woman. While the President spoke recently in support of marriage equality, this was not the case just two short years ago. The fact that the President can publically expose his previous stance on the marriage equality issue this shows that he is ever evolving. Currently DOMA is being used to keep full marriage equality rights from coming to the surface for all citizens of this country. The Department of Justice is in place to defent the laws of this country if reasonable arguments can be made, however, currently no such arguments can be made in federal court where these cases are being tried. Today, February 23, 2011, Attorney General, Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would cease legal defense of the Act at the direction of the President, because he reached the conclusion that it was inconstitutional. If there is one piece of legislation that has consistently been a barrier to the recognition of same-sex marriages then it would have to be DOMA .

Let me be very clear, Eric Holder is doing his job by defending the law. However, it has been determined that this law is unconstitutional and now it is his job to attempt to have that law repealed.

As the President and Attorney General moves forward, there are three things to keep in mind.

1.) What Obama and Holder have determined after a careful analysis is that discrimination cases involving sexual orientation deserve heightened scrutiny and that Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional. Now it is up to the district court within the jurisdiction of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to decide whether it agrees. However, no matter what happens, as Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry told me, "You can't unring the Liberty Bell."

2.) DOJ attorneys have been instructed to articulate the new DOMA stance to the courts in other pending DOMA cases.

3.) The ball is now in Boehner's court to decide whether Congress will defend DOMA now that justice will not. Nevertheless, he does not have much time. As I have already mentioned, the deadline for filing arguments in the case is two weeks from tomorrow.


As a SGL man in a country, that reminds me daily that my constitutional rights are not equal to those of those that are heterosexual. Who or how I love should not eradicate my rights on the constitution of the United States. This is truly a civil rights issue and I know that there has been much debate as to whether marriage equality is a civil rights issue. I would say to those that disagree that while you may feel that way, however, I would not argue with you. Nevertheless, anytime any citizen of this country is not afforded the same rights as his neighbor not only is it an injustice it is an a civil discriminatory practice.

Let me say in closing that I have been a long time proponent of marriage equality. I will continue to advocate until all 50 states have adopted marriage equality and DOMA is repealed.