Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The End of DOMA?

Well, I didn't see this one coming.

In 1996, Congress passed and Bill Clinton -- yes, that Bill Clinton -- signed into law an act known as the Defense of Marriage Act. The law had two parts: first, it created an end-run around the Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution, which requires states to honor legal contracts made in other states, such as marriage licenses. Any opposite-sex couple in America can marry in one state and travel to another and not worry about whether their marriage license is valid. DOMA created a loophole so that states could choose not to recognize legally enacted same-sex marriages from other states.

The second part requires that for all federal purposes, "marriage" can only be understood as one man and one woman. This is the part that, for example, prevents legally married same-sex couples in Massachusetts and now California from being able to file joint tax returns.

The text of the law was written by Georgia Representative Bob Barr, who was a Republican at the time and apparently eager to defend his third marriage from the threat of happy homosexuals everywhere.

Fast-forward twelve years: Barr is now the 2008 Libertarian Party candidate for the presidency, and this week apologized for DOMA, saying, "As I mentioned to you all last night and I reiterate here today, standing before you and looking you in the eye, the Defense of Marriage Act insofar as it provided the Federal Government with a club to club down the rights of law-abiding American citizens, has been abused, misused and should be repealed. And I will work to repeal that."

Bob Barr, I could kiss you!

It should be pointed out here that Hillary Clinton -- yes, that Hillary Clinton -- only partially opposes DOMA. She has called for the repeal of the federal ban on recognition of legal same-sex marriages, but would leave the first provision intact, so that states can continue to selectively honor the Full Faith and Credit clause of the United States Constitution on the basis of prejudice. (Barack Obama supports DOMA's full repeal.)

So, to summarize, on the issue of civil rights for LGBT people, Hillary Clinton is now to the right of the guy who wrote the Defense of Marriage Act.


Quinn said...

Bob Barr: Flip-flopper. (And I love him for it! But not in that way.)

Anonymous said...

Actually, if you listen to Barr's full statement, he is taking Hillary's position. Would repeal the "federal" part of DOMA, but not the state-by-state.

Marc said...

Um, yeah, I wouldn't be caught dead gushing over Bob Barr or even defending him in the slightest. To say that he is to the left of Hillary is to say that you really don't know Bob Barr at all. I lived in Georgia while the asshole was in office. He's whoring to try and snag some votes, nothing more. And don't get me wrong, I am not defending Hillary. Hardly. But Bob Barr is not someone any gay man should want to kiss.

Andy said...

Anon: I read through his statements, and while I did see that he said he felt states should be able to make up their own mind whether to recognize relationships or not, he didn't put it in the context of striking down part of the law, he said "repeal it." So it sounds like he has adopted Obama's (public) stance.

Barr has probably also figured out that leaving the first part of the law alone wouldn't stand up to judicial scrutiny; writing a law for the purpose of skirting the Constitution, well, unconstitutional?

Marc, don't worry, I wouldn't really kiss Bob Barr. I just find it ironic that the author of this notorious law has now publicly renounced it. The civil discourse on gay relationships has changed's amazing. Even John McCain openly supports some form of civil unions, which a decade ago would have been seen as leftist crazy talk. Well, it still is seen as leftist crazy talk by a lot the people McCain needs to vote for him.