When campaigning for President, Barack Obama said he believed marriage was a union between a man and a woman, but this week the President made it clear he takes pride in backing a bill that would overturn the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Prior to a hearing held by Senate Democrats on Wednesday on a bill federalizing same-sex marriage, the White House said Obama is “proud to support” it.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed on a bipartisan vote in 1996 and was signed into law by President Clinton. The law defined marriage as between a man and a woman and blocked the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
“Despite the clear will of the people, we have this legislation before us today,” said Rep. Steve King (R.-Iowa), who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“President Obama has directed the Justice Department to stop defending the constitutionality of these laws. It is not the role of the executive branch to determine what is constitutional, but to uphold the laws,” King said.
“It is clearly the will of the American people to maintain and uphold [DOMA]. This is good for families, good for society and good for government,” King said.
Black civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis (D.-Ga.) testified in favor of the bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.), calling it “an issue of dignity.”
“As a child, I tasted the bitter fruit of racism and discrimination, and I did not like it,” Lewis said. Under the Obama administration’s leadership and the Democrat-led Senate, Lewis said, Congress should lead the way and overturn the law.
“We are called to be a headlight, not a taillight,” Lewis said.
Edward Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said the effort to repeal DOMA is a “political matter” that is fueled by the Obama administration’s decision on Feb. 23 to “abandon pretending to defend” the law in court challenges.
Whelan said the Justice Department has actually “sabotaged” its long-standing practice of defending congressional enactments.
“The Obama administration has subordinated its legal duty to its desire to please a favored and powerful political constituency, and it is eager to obscure from the public its stealth campaign to induce the courts to invent a constitutional right to same-sex marriage,” Whelan said.
“Legislators who genuinely want to respect marriage should defend traditional marriage, not undermine it,” Whelan said.
The Respect for Marriage Act would strike DOMA from the law books and provide married same-sex couples with federal benefits such as Social Security.
“George Orwell would have marveled at the name,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R.-Iowa). “This undermines, not restores marriage.”
“I never thought I would have to ever defend traditional marriage. It’s been the foundation of society for 6,000 years. It is what civilization has been built on,” Grassley said.
“Even the President ran on an election platform of support of traditional marriage. Until yesterday, he was a supporter of DOMA as well,” Grassley said.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, told senators that DOMA “was enacted solely to treat gays and lesbians differently.”
Sen. Christopher Coons (D.-Del.) agreed. “I think we have bigger problems in our country than to continue to go out of our way to discriminate.”