Should the people of Massachusetts determine whether your state awards recognition to homosexual “marriages”? That, in effect, is what the President seeks in ordering his administration to not defend a U.S. law in federal court, i.e., the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA).
Ironically, an exception to the Obama administration’s quest for One Nation Under Massachusetts is Massachusetts. There, citizens didn’t get to determine whether their state awarded recognition to homosexual marriages either. So it’s fitting that in ignoring the will of the people as expressed through their elected representatives on a national level, the Obama administration has used Massachusetts, where a plurality of one judge made law for six million people, as its state-level model.
Fifteen years ago, the “Defense of Marriage Act” overwhelmingly passed both houses of Congress. Majorities of Democrats in the House and the Senate voted for the measure. The combined “nay” votes of both houses didn’t even reach into the triple digits. President Bill Clinton, not a drooling right-winger, signed DOMA into law.
But this is not your father’s Democratic Party. It’s not even your older brother’s. Sure, the names remain largely the same. Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, Steny Hoyer, and James Clyburn—familiar today as part of the Democratic leadership in Congress—all voted for DOMA as backbenchers in ’96. But like the President, the Democratic leadership is “evolving” on gay marriage.
The Constitution hasn’t evolved. It remains exactly as it was in 1996. The President’s contention that DOMA so utterly lacks constitutionality that his administration won’t even defend it in court surely is as stunning an indictment of the President’s infidelity to executing the law as it is of the judgment of his party’s present congressional leadership. The Democratic congressional leadership, save Nancy Pelosi, voted for the measure the President deems unconstitutional.
At issue for the Obama administration is the bill’s declaration that “the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman.” Until recently, everybody regarded this as tautological. So utterly uncontroversial was this in 1996, that the main argument against the legislation was that it was unnecessary. No state had even recognized gay marriage then. What was the point?
But then judges—in Massachusetts, in California, in Connecticut, in Iowa—began imposing gay marriage. Instead of gratuitous, DOMA suddenly seemed prescient. And if the overwhelming vote of the U.S. Congress didn’t persuade, then ballot
questions in 31 states unanimously siding with the traditional definition of marriage should have. Alas, liberals know best.
The dramatic step of the executive branch refusing to defend U.S. law gives lie to the widespread notion that the drive for gay marriage is a libertarian crusade to get the government out of the marriage business. Despite the subsequent misgivings of the bill’s House sponsor, Republican-turned-Libertarian Bob Barr, DOMA respects liberty and federalism. It doesn’t dictate to Massachusetts that it can’t recognize gay marriage. It merely affirms that other states need not recognize gay marriages performed in Massachusetts or anywhere else. In other words, DOMA ensures that states are free to legally affirm or ignore same-sex marriages.
Contrast this neutral position that allows for a diversity of state laws with the dictated conformity of Massachusetts U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Tauro, who ruled that DOMA’s enabling of other states to refuse to validate the Bay State’s homosexual marriages violates the Tenth Amendment (!) of the Constitution. Such creativity from the bench is what Obama’s abandonment of DOMA counts on to overturn state and federal law defining marriage as a contract between a man and a woman.
That Obama has done an end-around on executive process to enable such judges to do an end-around on the democratic process goes to show how unmoored the whole endeavor is to anything resembling representative government. The ends here always justify the means.
The Democrats’ reversal on DOMA reveals the rapid radicalization of their party, the myth of a don’t-push-your-morality-on-us ethos motivating gay marriage, and a one-size-fits-all contempt for federalism. Most importantly, it further highlights that “Democratic Party” has become an Orwellian phrase.