Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pressure mounts on Obama to repeal DOMA

SF Gay & Lesbian Examiner: Pressure mounts on Obama to repeal DOMA

April 7, 6:35 PM ·

How long can the President keep his back turned on us?

Now that four states have legalized same-sex marriage, and DC has voted to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, pressure is mounting on President Obama and Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The situation is becoming even more urgent now that New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, and New York all have same-sex marriage bills, and the California Supreme Court is debating Prop 8 and whether or not to allow marriages already performed in the state to stand. Furthermore, Rep. Tammy Baldwin has reintroduced a measure to grant federal benefits to same-sex spouses of federal employees, and a group of same-sex couples in Massachusetts has sued the federal government, challenging DOMA.

Yale law professor Lea Brilmayer told The Washington Post, "If President Obama hoped to buy some peace by ignoring the explosive issue of same-sex marriage, recent events in Iowa and Vermont have made that strategy look increasingly questionable. The growing number of states providing for same sex marriage puts Washington on the spot because federal tax and social security laws (to give just two examples) require knowing whether or not couples are legally married."

But Joe Mathews of the New America Foundation says don't expect the President or Congress to act anytime soon. "Given the major economic and national security challenges on his plate and on the congressional aganda, neither the White House nor Capitol Hill can be expected to make federal recognition of same-sex marriage a priority right now," he said. However, Mathews said Congress may soon pass Baldwin's "half-measure" making gay couples eligible for federal benefits.

GLAD legal director Gary Busek sees the President himself as the problem (GLAD is the organization that filed the federal suit in Massachusetts). "President Obama has said he supports the repeal of DOMA, which is great, but he continues to say he believes that marriage is between one man and one woman." Busek said,

Possibly the most important thing he could do on the issue of marriage equality is to do away with simplistic rhetoric and engage more sincerely on the issue. 'One man and one woman' does not address the very real constitutional question of why similarly situated citizens should be split into two classes -- those admitted to the civil institution of marriage and those barred from it.

Constitutional lawyer and auther Bruce Fein said, "Plenty more is likely to happen on the federal level. President Obama has declared his support for repealing the Defense of Marriage Act's prohibition on recognizing same-sex marriages in the application of federal law. Federal litigation on the matter is already emerging over decisions by two federal appellate judges to grant health benefits for the same-sex spouses of federal employees. A congressional repeal of DOMA seems inevitable, unless the U.S. Supreme Court first holds that marriage discrimination based on sexual orientation is unconstitutional. With DOMA's demise, Obama is likely to support federal laws that would recognize -- as a matter of states' rights -- same-sex marriages legally consummated under state law. Still, the politics will be fraught. Obama probably will say nothing about their wisdom in order to avoid inflaming Christian conservatives."

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