Thursday, September 24, 2009

Is DOMA doomed?

A congressman from New York recently introduced a bill called the Respect for Marriage Act, winning support from an initial 90 co-sponsors. Advocates speak about the “immorality” of the situation the legislation seeks to address.

But rather than seeking to protect the traditional definition of marriage as a union of one man and one woman, the bill, H.R. 3567, would completely eliminate the Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to define marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.

In addition to repealing DOMA, the Respect for Marriage Act would require federal recognition of any legal same-sex “marriage” and extend all federal rights and benefits to same-sex couples. DOMA is also being challenged in federal court, and while the Obama Justice Department is defending it as a matter of protocol, Obama has voiced his opposition to the law.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who introduced the Respect for Marriage Act, and homosexual advocates say that DOMA, signed into law by Democratic President Bill Clinton, discriminates against same-sex couples. “This legislation would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act … which discriminated against lawfully married same-sex couples,” Nadler said. “DOMA singles out legally married same-sex couples for discriminatory treatment under federal law.”

But Allan Carlson, president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society, thinks otherwise. “That is so profoundly wrong,” he said. “The moral scar is that we had to resort to DOMA to try to protect a vital human institution that is in the best interests of our children and country. The tragedy is that we had to devote energy to something like that, which should have been self-evident to our lawmakers.”

President Obama has made it clear that he wants DOMA repealed. “The Department of Justice has filed a response to a legal challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, as it traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged,” wrote the president. “This brief makes clear, however, that my administration believes that the act is discriminatory and should be repealed by Congress. I have long held that DOMA prevents LGBT couples from being granted equal rights and benefits.”

An analysis by the Alliance Defense Fund found that repealing DOMA would open the door for litigation to force states to recognize “marriages” between same-sex couples. Marriage amendments and other measures defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman have passed in more than 30 states.

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