14 September 2009

Repeal DOMA Now

According to The Hill, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) will be proposing a bill this week to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA was passed during Clinton’s presidency in 1996. According to H.R.3396:

‘No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.’

‘In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.’
The purpose of part the first is to make an exception to the “Full Faith and Credit” Clause of Article IV, Section 1 of the United States Constitution that states:

Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.
This article makes it possible for other states to recognize civil issues from state to state, like marriages, drivers’ licenses, judiciary rulings, and property ownership. If you are civilly married in one state and then move to another, you don’t have to be remarried in your new state. DOMA was written to specifically exclude that right for same-sex marriages. Whereas the Constitution specifically ensures these rights, DOMA rejects them. In most legal circles, this would make H.R.3396 unconstitutional.

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines discrimination as “1 a : the act of discriminationg b : the process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently.” If you read further, you find, “3 a : the act, practice, or an instance of discriminating categorically rather than individually.”

“Categorically.” Same-sex marriages are a category to be treated differently than hetero marriages. No matter how you choose to read it, the bill discriminates against a group of people, much like blacks were discriminated against in the 1960s. There is one major difference though, blacks were not specifically discriminated against in the Constitution, they just weren’t mentioned as a category. So the nation fixed it in 1870 by ratifying the Fifteenth Amendment granting everyone the right to vote without regard to race, color, or previous condition (i.e. slavery). That wasn’t enough, so the nation took action again with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that banned discrimination in employment practices and public accommodations; the Voting Rights Act of 1965, that restored and protected voting rights; the Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965, that dramatically opened entry to the U.S. to immigrants other than traditional European groups; and the Civil Rights Act of 1968, that banned discrimination in the sale or rental of housing.

It amazes me that with such a history of inclusion that the nation would suddenly decide to reverse its progressive action and instead of passing laws to be more inclusive, it decided to be specifically exclusive; and with overwhelming numbers. In the Senate, 85 (53R, 32D) voted in favor with only 14 (14D) against (one senator abstained from voting). In the House, 342 (224R, 118D) voted for and 65 (1R, 65D, 1I) voted against (24 abstained).

A full 427 lawmakers in this nation felt justified in stripping away the rights of citizens—for no other reason than “gay marriage” made a bunch of people uncomfortable. Same-sex marriage has not been proven to be indecent—or laws would have already accommodated that. It hasn’t proven to be criminal—or, again, laws would have addressed it. Religious justification is out because the First Amendment screws up that. Black people made a bunch of people uncomfortable, too, but rather than specifically exclude black people, the nation made its vague laws more pointed to specifically include them. And 30 years later, the nation decided to specifically exclude gay people. And not even gay people, just gay married people. Oh, being gay is fine because we apparently haven’t yet found a way to make that illegal, but in the meantime, until we figure out a way, we’ll make it illegal for your marriage to be just as valid as any other couple in the nation.

It’s not illegal to be black, just illegal to be black and vote. Oh, wait.

The Hill article indicates that repealing the act won’t gain much traction as it might distract from greater LGBT rights legislation (specifically employment rights and federal benefits for domestic partners). To that, I say you can’t forge ahead with any rights legislation until you repeal DOMA. You can’t delineate specific rights for people until you give them back the right you unlawfully took from them in 1996—the basic right to be treated just as any other citizen in the nation.

Call, email, and/or write your representatives and senators today. Tell them that the first step in regaining freedoms for all Americans is to repeal DOMA.

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