Thursday, June 18, 2009

What is the Defense of Marriage Act and Why Are Gays ticked with Obama?

This morning I was reading "Gay critics say 'too little, too late' from Obama" when I read that while President Obama signed a memorandum Wednesday that gives some benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, he's prohibited from granting "health and retirement benefits to same-sex partners, as that is prohibited under the Defense of Marriage Act." I wondered what the who? If I've ever heard of a Defense of Marriage Act, DOMA, I've forgotten about it.

Britannica states, "... in 1996 the U.S. Congress enacted the Defense of Marriage Act. This legislation declared that same-sex marriages would not be recognized for federal purposes, such as the award of Social Security benefits normally afforded to a surviving spouse or employment-based benefits for the partners ..."

Democratic President Bill Clinton, btw, signed DOMA into law:
On Friday, September 20, prior to signing the Defense of Marriage Act, President Clinton released the following statement:

Throughout my life I have strenuously opposed discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against gay and lesbian Americans. I am signing into law H.R. 3396, a bill relating to same-gender marriage, but it is important to note what this legislation does and does not do.

I have long opposed governmental recognition of same-gender marriages and this legislation is consistent with that position. The Act confirms the right of each state to determine its own policy with respect to same gender marriage and clarifies for purposes of federal law the operative meaning of the terms "marriage" and "spouse".

This legislation does not reach beyond those two provisions. It has no effect on any current federal, state or local anti-discrimination law and does not constrain the right of Congress or any state or locality to enact anti-discrimination laws. I therefore would take this opportunity to urge Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, an act which would extend employment discrimination protections to gays and lesbians in the workplace. This year the Senate considered this legislation contemporaneously with the Act I sign today and failed to pass it by a single vote. I hope that in its next Session Congress will pass it expeditiously.

I also want to make clear to all that the enactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination, violence or intimidation against any person on the basis of sexual orientation. Discrimination, violence and intimidation for that reason, as well as others, violate the principle of equal protection under the law and have no place in American society. (Bill Clinton's Statement)
I think I missed DOMA being signed into law because during the first half of the 90s I wasn't doing much other than trying to finish school and taking care of two children and an overly-content husband.

While investigating DOMA, I thought it best to read what a mainstream Christian publication has to say about it since the Christian church has been a major opponent of gay marriage. Christianity Today published an article a few days ago saying that the Department of Justice recently defended DOMA in a specific case. I'm not sure the DOJ was defending DOMA as much as it was asking the case be dismissed on grounds of a technicality, "wrong jurisdiction," etc.

However, the DOJ did indeed assert while arguing its case that DOMA doesn't violate any fundamental rights. Does the President believe this or were DOJ attorneys just doing what attorneys do, stand the ground they're given?

The Christianity Today article cites a San Francisco Chronicle article on the case that's very good at explaining what's what. It seems Obama promised during his campaign to repeal DOMA, but hasn't taken any action yet to do so while the DOJ has made the case that DOMA is not discriminatory.
The Justice Department issued a statement saying Obama wants the law repealed "because it prevents LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) couples from being granted equal rights and benefits. However, until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system."

The administration is seeking dismissal of a suit by Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer of Mission Viejo (Orange County), who married last year before California voters passed Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. The state Supreme Court upheld Prop. 8 last month but also upheld the validity of 18,000 same-sex marriages performed before the November election. (SFC)
So, Obama signing that memorandum yesterday does seem to be, as the CNN writer says, an offering of the olive branch to the GLBT community. He's moving too slowly for them and he know sit, and it's no surprise that they're giving him hell about his piecemeal measures.

2 comments:

LISA VAZQUEZ said...

Hi there!

I just noticed your comment rules!!

At least I know that I am not the only blog host who has some cyber-fools who try to put nonsense in the comment section!!

I think that the gay community SHOULD pressure Obama about receiving equal rights to federal benefits for their long-term domestic partners.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
Lisa

Monica said...

I just don't know what to do with this. I honestly just thank God this is not my cross to bear because on the one hand, I honestly wonder what God will have to say about all this one day. My guess? Everybody on both sides will be shocked into silence. But in the meanwhile, I just don't understand why everyone can't just be free to choose who to share benefits, assets, life with and let that be that. I know it can't be loosey-goosey because employers don't want to share that cost if you want to cover a ton of folk, but really,if they are at least all in the same household, that should be enough. I don't envy anyone having to deal with this.