DOMA

No Reason for DOMA, Says Appeals Court

 A federal appeals court in Boston today upheld a lower court ruling that called the key section of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act” unconstitutional. Section 3 of DOMA bans the federal government from recognizing legal marriages between people of the same sex, meaning that it willfully discriminates against a set of married people when it comes to Social Security benefits, joint-filing tax breaks, military spousal benefits and immigration. When DOMA was passed in 1996 no states allowed gay and lesbian couple to marry – its provisions were purely theoretical. Today, marriage equality exists in six states and the District of Columbia, and DOMA actively harms thousands of married Americans – 100,000 couples, according to the court.

In its decision concluding that DOMA violates the Constitution, the unanimous First Circuit panel – two out of three of whom were nominated by Republican presidents – was cautious. The panel said that under First Circuit precedent DOMA doesn’t trigger “heightened scrutiny” – a tougher standard for the federal government to meet. It also declined to address any arguments based on the premise that lesbians and gays have a constitutional right to marry (as opposed to having their existing marriages recognized by the federal government).

But the court was clear that Section 3 of DOMA does not meet the “rational basis” test for upholding a federal law that denies equal protection to a group long subject to discrimination – in other words, there’s just no good reason for DOMA to do the harm that it does.

The court looked at several justificiations offered for the law by DOMA’s supporters and found that each comes up short. Supporters say DOMA will save the federal government money (reports say that it actually costs the government money…and saving money isn’t a good enough reason for legal discrimination in the first place); that allowing lesbians and gays to marry harms children (it doesn’t, and Section 3 of DOMA doesn’t affect these couples’ rights to raise children anyway); and just plain moral disapproval (Supreme Court precedent says this isn’t enough of a reason). And finally, the court takes on the constant argument of opponents of same-sex marriage: that somehow gay couples getting married will harm the institution of marriage for everyone else:

Although the House Report is filled with encomia to heterosexual marriage, DOMA does not increase benefits to opposite-sex couples--whose marriages may in any event be childless, unstable or both--or explain how denying benefits to same-sex couples will reinforce heterosexual marriage. Certainly, the denial will not affect the gender choices of those seeking marriage. This is not merely a matter of poor fit of remedy to perceived problem, but a lack of any demonstrated connection between DOMA's treatment of same-sex couples and its asserted goal of strengthening the bonds and benefits to society of heterosexual marriage.

This is the crux of any number of court decisions that have struck down barriers to marriage equality. The main reason given for many laws that seek to deny marriage rights to gays and lesbians is that same-sex marriage will somehow weaken marriage for everybody else. It’s a claim that just doesn’t hold water.

The First Circuit panel did, however, go out of its way to defend DOMA’s supporters even while rejecting the law.

The District Court judge whose ruling the appeals court upheld declared that DOMA was motivated by “irrational prejudice” toward gays and lesbians. The First Circuit explicitly refuses to go there, instead stating that while that may have been true for some supporters, others were motivated instead by what it characterizes as the non-biased wish to “preserve the heritage of marriage as traditionally defined over centuries of Western civilization.” Under recent Supreme Court precedent, they write, the wish to uphold tradition isn’t a good enough one for denying equal protection. But the Supreme Court can change that if it wants:

In reaching our judgment, we do not rely upon the charge that DOMA's hidden but dominant purpose was hostility to homosexuality. The many legislators who supported DOMA acted from a variety of motives, one central and expressed aim being to preserve the heritage of marriage as traditionally defined over centuries of Western civilization. Preserving this institution is not the same as "mere moral disapproval of an excluded group," and that is singularly so in this case given the range of bipartisan support for the statute.

The opponents of section 3 point to selected comments from a few individual legislators; but the motives of a small group cannot taint a statute supported by large majorities in both Houses and signed by President Clinton. Traditions are the glue that holds society together, and many of our own traditions rest largely on belief and familiarity--not on benefits firmly provable in court. The desire to retain them is strong and can be honestly held. For 150 years, this desire to maintain tradition would alone have been justification enough for almost any statute. This judicial deference has a distinguished lineage, including such figures as Justice Holmes, the second Justice Harlan, and Judges Learned Hand and Henry Friendly. But Supreme Court decisions in the last fifty years call for closer scrutiny of government action touching upon minority group interests and of federal action in areas of traditional state concern.

Recognizing that the Supreme Court will likely review its reasoning, the court stayed the decision, so it will not go into effect yet.

PFAW Foundation

PFAW Foundation Applauds First Circuit DOMA Ruling

A unanimous three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld a lower-court ruling which held that Section 3 of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The panel included two Republican appointees.

Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way Foundation, issued the following statement:

“The First Circuit has reached the inevitable conclusion on DOMA: the arguments for such a discriminatory, hurtful law just don’t hold up. Over 16 years, DOMA has denied thousands of legally married Americans the protections and responsibilities granted to all other married couples under federal law. DOMA prevents married couples from providing for each other through Social Security; sponsoring each other for visas; helping each other with the tax benefits reserved for married couples; and prevents some service members and veterans from having their marriages recognized by the military. DOMA marginalizes a group of Americans, declares them inferior, and denies them rights granted to all others.

“ DOMA has caused real harm to Americans. A law that discriminates against a class of people just for the sake of discrimination is contrary to our principles and contrary to our laws.”

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FRC Mobilizes Against DOMA Repeal, Warns of 'Grave Threat' to the 'Well-being of the Family'

In advance of a court case on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and amid calls to repeal the discriminatory law, the Family Research Council today sent an appeal to members urging them to tell Congress that a repeal of DOMA would present a “grave threat” to the family and religious liberty. In an email to members, FRC president Tony Perkins lamented that the Obama administration has already “forced open homosexuality upon the military” and provided “taxpayer-funded marriage benefits to same-sex couples.”

Few were shocked by the recent announcement of President Obama's "evolved" support for redefining marriage. His words have finally followed his actions - or his inaction when it comes to marriage policy. In less than four years, the Obama Administration has forced open homosexuality upon the Armed Forces, opposed state marriage amendments, refused to do its constitutional duty to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA), and awarded taxpayer-funded marriage benefits to same-sex couples.

Now some in Congress are seeking to repeal DoMA - an act that would endanger the marriage laws in 44 states that currently define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

There are those who hope you will step aside and allow this God-given institution to be redefined. We cannot allow the DoMA law to be repealed. Please sign our Stand for Marriage petition, and join us in showing Congress and President Obama that marriage is worth standing for.



Given that the family consisting of marriage between one man and one woman is the foundation of civil society, I urge Congress and President Obama to uphold and defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA), which defines marriage for the federal government and affirms the rights of states to protect the institution of marriage. President Obama's cynical endorsement of same-sex "marriage," along with his failure to do his constitutional duty to enforce and defend federal law in relation to marriage, combined with the plans of some in Congress seeking to overturn DoMA - is a grave threat not only to the well-being of the family, but to the religious liberty of countless Americans who do not wish to be forced to embrace a counterfeit version of marriage.

President Obama recognizes LGBT families

It’s clear that, for the President, this isn’t just about couples getting married. It’s also about couples raising children with the sense of security that comes from family equality.
PFAW

LaBarbera: Obama 'Should be Impeached' for Trying to 'Pander to his Homosexual Activist Base'

Last week we reported that the Family Research Council asked members to pray against “homosexual tyranny” in America after the federal government agreed to have Blue Cross Blue Shield offer full benefits for a same-sex spouse of a federal employee after a judge ruled in favor of the employee in her lawsuit against the Defense of Marriage Act. Naturally, Americans For Truth About Homosexuality president Peter LaBarbera is demanding that Congress impeach President Obama as a result of his administration’s decision to grant her health benefits:

"This is another shocking act by the Obama administration, which has got to be the most arrogant and Constitution-abusing president in America's history," he decides. "The Obama administration didn't like the Defense of Marriage Act, which was passed by Congress [and] signed into law by then-President Clinton, and so now they're just ignoring it and blatantly disregarding it."

This particular case, however, is not over, as Republicans have appealed the district court's decision, which has no effect on enrollments requested by other same-sex couples. Even though the law is being challenged in court, LaBarbera says it is still the law.

"I believe that President Obama should be impeached on this alone," he suggests. "He's not dictator of the United States of America; he's president, and he can't just ignore the law, ignore the Constitution, to pander to his homosexual activist base."

Santorum Says He Doesn’t Want to Impose His Values on the Rest of Us

On Meet the Press yesterday, David Gregory questioned GOP presidential frontrunner Rick Santorum about the social issues – opposition to reproductive choice and gay rights – on which he has built his career. Stunningly, Santorum denied that he has focused on social issues and claimed, “There’s no evidence at all that I, that I want to impose those values on anybody else.”

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FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: It's so funny. I get the question all the time. Why are you talking so much about these social issues, as they, as, as people ask about me about the social issues.
MR. GREGORY: Senator, no, wait a minute.
FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Look, the...
MR. GREGORY: You talk about this stuff every week. And by the way, it's not just in this campaign.
FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: No, I talk about, I talk...
MR. GREGORY: Sir, in this campaign you talk about it. And I've gone back years when you've been in public life and you have made this a centerpiece of your public life. So the notion that these are not deeply held views worthy of question and scrutiny, it's not just about the press.
FMR. SEN. SANTORUM: Yeah, they, they are deeply held views, but they're not what I dominantly talk about, David. You're taking things that over a course of a 20-year career and pulling out quotes from difference speeches on, on issues that are fairly tangential, not what people care about mostly in America, and saying, "Oh, he wants to impose those values." Look at my record. I've never wanted to impose any of the things that you've just talked about. These are, these are my personal held religious beliefs, and in many forums that I, that, that are, in fact, religious, because I do speak in front of church groups and I do speak in these areas, I do talk about them. But there's no evidence at all that I, that I want to impose those values on anybody else.


This is, of course, a bunch of baloney. While Santorum has spent a lot of time in his presidential campaign talking up regressive tax policies, irresponsible deregulation and anti-environmentalism, the core of his brand has always been social conservatism. His campaign has consistently and explicitly distinguished his anti-choice, anti-gay record with Mitt Romney’s in order to successfully appeal to culture-warring voters.

Santorum has also never shied away from wanting to “impose” his far-right values on the rest of the country. In a 2005 interview with NPR, for instance, he railed against the libertarian wing of the Republican party, saying, “They have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do. Government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulation low and that we shouldn't get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn't get involved in cultural issues, you know, people should do whatever they want. Well, that is not how traditional conservatives view the world.”

And here he is at a Republican debate in November discussing how our civil laws must “comport with God’s law”:

The former senator has said that states should be allowed to outlaw birth control and gay relationships, but supports the federal law banning recognition of legal same-sex marriages. He supports so-called “personhood” laws, which would not only outlaw all abortions regardless of circumstances, but would jeopardize legal access to contraception. He says that as president, he would reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, putting the careers of openly gay members of the military at risk. Yet he says he doesn’t want to “impose” his far-right values on the rest of us.

Santorum’s interview on Meet the Press is far from the first time he’s claimed that he’s not overly interested in social issues. PFAW’s Right Wing Watch found a speech he gave in 2008 in which he claimed that it’s liberals who have made sex an issue on the campaign trail. For liberals, he said, politics “comes down to sex” and that the Democratic Party has become “the party of Woodstock.”:

And it’s just insidious. And it’s most of the time focused on the sexual issues. If you’re a hard-core free-market guy, they’re not going to call you “zealous”. They’re not going to call you “ultra-conservative”. They’re not going to do that to you.
It comes down to sex. That’s what it’s all about. It comes down to freedom, and it comes down to sex. If you have anything to with any of the sexual issues, and if you are on the wrong side of being able to do all of the sexual freedoms you want, you are a bad guy. And you’re dangerous because you are going to limit my freedom in an area that’s the most central to me. And that’s the way it’s looked at.
...
Woodstock is the great American orgy. This is who the Democratic Party has become. They have become the party of Woodstock. The prey upon our most basic primal lusts, and that’s sex. And the whole abortion culture, it’s not about life. It’s about sexual freedom. That’s what it’s about. Homosexuality. It’s about sexual freedom.
All of the things are about sexual freedom, and they hate to be called on them. They try to somehow or other tie this to the Founding Father’s vision of liberty, which is bizarre. It’s ridiculous.
 

 

PFAW

Conservatives Livid at Bush-Appointed Judge who struck down DOMA

Last week federal judge Jeffrey White ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional because it violates the equal protection clause, representing a stinging rebuke to the House Republicans’ efforts to defend the law through the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG). The Religious Right once hailed BLAG as a savior of the anti-gay law, arguing that the only reason judges were chipping away at DOMA was because of the poor arguments of the Justice Department. But White found that DOMA doesn’t pass constitutional muster under either a heightened scrutiny measure or the less stringent rational basis test.

Notably, former President George W. Bush nominated Judge White and the Senate confirmed him in a voice vote.

But even though he was nominated by a Republican and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate without Republican opposition, Religious Right activists are now accusing him of being an activist judge.

Gordon Klingenschmitt urged people to pray that God will “defeat and overturn the bad ruling by activist U.S. Federal Judge Jeffrey S. White” and that Congress will impeach him:

Let us pray. Almighty God, we pray You defeat and overturn the bad ruling by activist U.S. Federal Judge Jeffrey S. White in San Francisco, who ruled America’s founding fathers embraced sodomy and protected homosexual ‘marriage’ somehow in the U.S. Constitution, and therefore he struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 federal law signed by President Clinton, that defined marriage as only valid between one man and one woman. We pray Congress impeaches Judge White, from Proverbs 19:25, “Strike a scoffer and the naive may become shrewd.” In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Liberty Counsel chairman Mat Staver blamed the Obama administration for the ruling as part of their plan to “sabotage” marriage, and called the judge’s ruling “absolutely ridiculous”:

"This is another outrageous example of the Obama administration abandoning the defense of the Defense of Marriage Act, simply trying to sabotage marriage as the union of one man and one woman and pushing a radical homosexual agenda," Staver contends.



"I think that it's absolutely ridiculous to say that there's no rational or even debatable or logical reason for the Defense of Marriage Act, to say that you cannot have same-sex unions," Staver offers. "And in this particular case, the court did the wrong thing by ultimately finding that the Defense of Marriage Act as applied in this case was unconstitutional."

Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition said Obama is leading a “direct war on marriage”:

Given the Obama administration's direct war on marriage, whether through attacking military chaplains' rights of conscience or refusing to defend DOMA, it's pretty clear which side he is on. Obama can't afford to come out of the proverbial closet though... for fear of losing an election.

America's moral virtue runs pretty deep. Despite the best efforts of this liberal government to affect that, the heavy hand of the Obama administration is no match for the Judeo-Christian values that inform the consciences of millions.

...which is why Obama is attempting to impose upon our rights.

For Valentine’s Day, How About Repealing DOMA?

The Senate is currently tied up by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has blocked action on a major transportation bill and the confirmation of an urgent judicial nomination. While it’s stalled, the Senate has the perfect opportunity to take up a Valentine’s Day-appropriate bill: the Respect for Marriage Act.

The Respect For Marriage Act, introduced in the Senate by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, would repeal the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act,” which requires the federal government to discriminate against same-sex married couples. DOMA makes a lot of things harder for gay and lesbian married couples – including the denial of military spousal benefits to married gay and lesbian members of the armed forces and the denial of Social Security benefits to the same-sex spouse of a deceased person.

DOMA also tears married couples apart. U.S. citizens married to someone of the same sex can’t sponsor their spouses for citizenship – leading to heartbreaking separations. The Huffington Post interviewed one such couple, U.S. citizen Kelli Ryan and her wife Lucy Truman, a British citizen, who are publicly petitioning the government for a green card for Truman:

"We really simply want to be treated fairly and equally," Ryan, who was born in the United States, said on a call with reporters Thursday. "I feel as an American citizen that I should be able to have the same rights as all other American citizens and I should not be forced to choose between my country and my family."

GLAD has stories of married couples torn apart by DOMA [pdf], and United by Love, Divided by Law has photos of binational couples whose futures are uncertain because of DOMA.

For more information on the Respect for Marriage Act, visit PFAW, Freedom to Marry, and the Respect for Marriage Act coalition. Be sure to click here to sign the PFAW petition.
 

PFAW

PFAW Applauds Committee Vote on Respect For Marriage Act

The Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee

PFAW Commends Movement on DOMA Repeal

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced today that he intends to bring the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would repeal the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), before his committee for a vote in November.

Ending Discrimination against Same-Sex Couples: Relationship Recognition in Immigration Law

The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) is a meaningful step toward providing equality to same-sex couples and keeping their families together. It would allow many same-sex partners to begin the immigration process more quickly, efficiently, and with fewer limitations. For many, it could very well be the only avenue available to keep their families together in the US.

Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Protecting America and Its Principles

We need swift certification and effectuation of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Ending Discrimination against Same-Sex Couples: Marriage and Relationship Recognition in Federal Law

Although there are some actions that can and should be taken to expand benefits and protections for same-sex couples, only the full repeal of DOMA will allow federal and interstate recognition of their legal marriages and give those couples equal rights under the law.

Federal Court Rules DOMA’s Section 3 Unconstitutional

A federal court in Massachusetts has ruled unconstitutional Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages.
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