Equality For All

"End a" Discriminatory Workplace with ENDA

As a freshman in high school I approached my principal to request a space to perform one of the five mandatory Muslim prayers that happened to start and end during school hours. I had been praying for years in school and thought nothing of it, until she said no.  As unfortunate as her response was, I was lucky for two reasons. The first was that there were laws in place that protected me from facing this type of discrimination, and I was eventually allowed to pray in school thanks to the help of the American Civil Liberties Union. The second reason is that experience was transformative and opened my eyes not only to the struggles of other Muslim Americans, but to all groups who face discrimination. As lucky as I was with my specific situation, I soon realized that not every group had legal recourse in situations arising from discrimination.

Yesterday, over nine years after my high school experience, I went to the office of US Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) to lobby for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). I, along with two other constituents from the Lone Star State, met with a staffer to discuss our desire for the senator to support this legislation that would protect the millions of Americans who identify as LGBTQ. We explained that current legislation does not extend to LGBTQ individuals in the workforce who face discrimination and action must be taken to protect the rights of these millions of Americans. We each told her why this issue matters to us individually – I told her about my experience seeking time to pray in high school. She explained a number of factors that might keep the senator from supporting ENDA, including states’ rights concerns and the timing around the election. She also reminded us how long the process has been for previous groups trying to secure equal rights in America.

But why does this group of Americans needs to wait any longer to enjoy equal rights? We need our senators and representatives to be leaders. The rights of minority groups may not always be popular with the majority, but leadership on a federal level is required to protect those rights, just as it was and remains necessary with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. LGBTQ individuals should be able to walk into their places of employment or prospective employment and not fear that who they are is going to result in discrimination – and they should be able to do so today. I call on Sen. John Cornyn and every other member of Congress to get one small step closer to ending discrimination by passing ENDA. It’s the American thing to do.

PFAW

John Kirkwood on Gay Judges: 'We Were Better Off When the Mafia Ran Illinois'

Illinois pastor John Kirkwood joined Peter LaBarbara on Americans for Truth About Homosexuality Radio Hour last week to discuss a pending challenge to Illinois’ ban on same-sex marriage. The two were up in arms because the Cook County circuit court judge presiding over the case, Sophia Hall, is openly gay. Not only do they want Judge Hall to recuse herself from the case (the Right made a similar, unsuccessful demand of Judge Vaughn Walker, who presided over the Prop 8 trial in California), but they take issue with the very existence of openly gay judges.

Kirkwood, perusing a newsletter article about a function honoring openly LGBT judges in Cook County compared the event to one honoring “the adulterous judges of Cook County” and mused, “We were better off when the Mafia ran Illinois because they were interested in making a profit, not making some kind of political statement that is totally abhorrent.”

LaBarbara: It’s just amazing, John. I mean, you know, Cook County is corrupt, but it’s hard to appreciate how corrupt it is if you’re outside of Illinois. And this is a county that, and we have a photo here of Judge Hall, she’s one of 14 openly homosexual judges in this county.

Kirkwood: Yeah, you know, it’s affectionately called “Crook County” now. And I can actually make the bold statement, and it might sound absurd as a pastor, but we were better off when the Mafia ran Illinois because they were interested in making a profit, not making some kind of political statement that is totally abhorrent.

….

Kirkwood: It just occurred to me how outrageous it would seem if the headline you read is, “Seek to Honor the Adulterous Judges of Cook County.”

LaBarbara: Right, right, well that goes to, John, that goes to you as a pastor and all of us. We’re believers and we regard homosexuality as a serious sexual sin. And so, yeah, just even the language: “gay judges.” I mean these are judges who are openly practicing immoral conduct, they’re proud of it, and even though they don’t think like that, that’s how many people regard homosexuality and that’s the problem.

Mitt Romney and America’s “Anglo-Saxon Heritage"

Mitt Romney traveled to Europe last night, and flew right into a political mess. Romney’s campaign is running away fast from a comment made by one of the candidate’s foreign policy advisers to Britain’s The Telegraph:

One of his advisers told Britain’s Daily Telegraph on Tuesday that Romney is better positioned than President Obama to foster a strong relationship with the U.K. because of his "Anglo-Saxon" connection to the country. "We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels the relationship is special," the unnamed aide said of Romney. "The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have."

The accusation that President Obama doesn’t appreciate America’s “Anglo-Saxon heritage” is a barely veiled racist attack against the president, not to mention the millions of Americans who are not descended from ancient Britons. Newt Gingrich was getting at the same thing when he accused the president of having a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview. Mike Huckabee was too when he said Obama grew up near “madrassas” rather than “going to Boy Scout meetings.”

Unsurprisingly, the Romney campaign is now denying that the words were ever said (though they won’t specify by whom they were not said, nor have they asked for a retraction). I hope they’re telling the truth: the comment was massively offensive, and shouldn’t be coming from anywhere near a major political campaign. But the Romney campaign’s denials aren’t really letting the candidate off the hook. That sort of comment calls for a strong rebuke, not just a tepid denial.

But I’m not holding my breath. After all, when another Romney surrogate, former George H.W. Bush chief of staff John Sununu said the president needs to "learn how to be an American" – another appeal to the popular right-wing idea that the president is some sort of foreign imposter – Sununu attempted to walk back his own comment, but the campaign was silent.

As it happens, Romney is in a similar situation with another of his foreign policy advisers, former Bush administration official John Bolton who went on anti-Muslim activist Frank Gaffney’s radio show yesterday to defend Rep. Michele Bachmann’s attacks on Muslim-Americans working for the U.S. government. Bolton’s comments set him apart from prominent Republicans including John McCain and John Boehner, who have rebuked Bachmann’s witch hunt. Yet Romney, who apparently will be only appearing for photo ops in London tomorrow, hasn’t said a word.

PFAW

POLITICO: Supreme Court a Critical 2012 Issue

A POLITICO article out today reaffirms that the 2012 election is of “Supreme importance” to the future of the nation’s highest court.

The piece takes note of the critical role the court will play in the upcoming elections and reminds readers that the next presidential term will be particularly important in determining the composition of the court for decades to come.

Four Supreme Court justices enter the next term in their 70s, and any changes during the next presidential term could tip the balance of the court on some of the nation’s hottest social issues, including same-sex marriage, civil rights and abortion.

There’s also the often-overlooked aspect that the president nominates judges to fill the nation’s appellate and district courts, which produce some of the country’s most lasting decisions.

POLITICO also notes that due to widespread GOP efforts at voter suppression, there is a possibility that the court may have a hand in determining the outcome of the presidential race.

Mitt Romney’s top judicial adviser, the far-right former judge Robert Bork, weighed in as well:

Few see the Supreme Court actually becoming a prominent attack line when the candidates are speaking to the general public. “It should be, but the economic issues will far outweigh other questions,” Robert Bork, the former Reagan Supreme Court nominee now serving as a top Romney legal adviser, wrote in an email to POLITICO.

As the decision in Citizens United and other cases clearly demonstrates, the current Supreme Court is one of the most conservative in American history. It’s hard to imagine a court even further to the right, and yet that is exactly what a Romney presidency would ensure.

For more on the Supreme Court and Robert Bork, See PFAW’s report “Borking America” and visit RomneyCourt.com.

PFAW

Don’t Forget Who John Roberts Is

Add this to the good news/bad news mix from the Supreme Court's healthcare decision: Because of the good news (Chief Justice Roberts voted to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act), we get the bad news that his standing among the nation's Democrats has significantly increased. This collective amnesia about who John Roberts is and what he has done is disturbing, especially since the direction of the Court is one of the most important issues upon which Democrats should be voting in November.

A new Gallup Poll shows wild fluctuations in Democrats and Republicans' assessment of Chief Justice John Roberts since their last poll in 2005, a change Gallup attributes to his role in upholding the Affordable Care Act. Roberts' approval rating among Republicans has plummeted 40 percentage points from 2005, falling from 67% to 27%. In contrast, his favorability among Democrats has risen from 35% to 54%. That the healthcare decision is a catalyst of this change is supported by a PEW Research Center poll last week showing that between April and July, approval of the Supreme Court dropped 18 points among Republicans and rose 12% among Democrats.

Yes, John Roberts upheld the ACA, but only as a tax. At the same time, he agreed with his four far right compatriots that it fell outside the authority granted Congress by the Commerce Clause, leaving many observers concerned that he has set traps designed to let the Court later strike down congressional legislation that should in no way be considered constitutionally suspect. He also joined the majority that restricted Congress's constitutional authority under the Spending Clause to define the contours of state programs financed with federal funds.

Just as importantly, Roberts's upholding the ACA does not erase the past seven years, during which he has repeatedly been part of thin conservative majority decisions bending the law beyond recognition in order to achieve a right wing political result. John Roberts cast the deciding vote in a number of disastrous decisions, including those that:

Oh, and then there's that little 5-4 Citizens United opinion that has upended our nation's electoral system and put our government up to sale to the highest bidder.

With a rap sheet like that – and this is hardly a complete a list – no one should be under the illusion that John Roberts is anything but a right-wing ideologue using the Supreme Court to cement his favorite right-wing policies into law.

Next term, Roberts is expected to lead the judicial front of the Republican Party's war against affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act. Whether he succeeds may depend on whether it is Mitt Romney or Barack Obama who fills the next vacancy on the Supreme Court.

PFAW

Reverend William Owens’ Offensive Anti-Gay Politics

Reverend William (Bill) Owens is the founder and president of a tiny outfit that goes by the name of the Coalition of African-American Pastors. The group’s sole reason for existing appears to be attacking African-American leaders and organizations from the right. Among other things, Owens thinks a man having sex with another man is like a man having sex with a dog. He also thinks that people become gay because they were molested as kids. But more on that later. 

Yesterday in Houston, Owens held a press conference outside the NAACP annual convention to attack the group for endorsing marriage equality. Back in May, Owens generated some press by attacking President Obama, likewise for endorsing marriage equality.
 
I wasn’t surprised then, to learn that Owens is affiliated with the National Organization for Marriage, whose internal planning documents talk of the need to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks.” Owens was once a heroic civil rights leader in Nashville, but these days it’s hard to know – apart from NOM – who or what Owens’ constituency is. For instance, Owens is a collecting signatures for an anti-marriage equality pledge at 100000signatures4marriage.com (that’s with a 1 with 5 zeros). But he wrote in a May 31 letter that “over one thousand” people had signed (so close, just 99% more to go!).
 
And just last week, the African Methodist Episcopal Church took exception with a Coalition of African-American Pastors press release that claimed that both organizations would call on black pastors to “withhold support from President Obama because of his ongoing disrespect for the views of many of us in the black church.” Bishop Carolyn Tyler Guidry, chair of AME’s Commission on Social Action, said that “contrary to the report, neither the AME Church nor its leadership is involved with or partnering with the Coalition of African-American Pastors.” Oops.
 
Owens, it must be said, is a true believer and comes by his anti-gay wedge politics honestly (although NOM is likely providing some financial backing). At the May press conference where he attacked Obama, Owens belied his own ignorance and homophobia. He equated gay sex with bestiality and said that homosexuality is caused by, and spreads through, molestation. You can listen to highlights of the full event here:
 
A few months ago, the Commercial Appeal carried an article with a young man’s picture in it. He was charged with having sex with a dog. Now I wonder was that his civil right? Will we go down that road where whatever we choose to do, we’ll call it our civil rights? Well if it’s a civil right for a man to marry man, and a woman to marry woman, what’s the difference of a man deciding he wants to have sex with a dog? […]
 
When people that you don’t know they’re homosexuals, and they get caught into something, they will tell you it was early childhood that they were molested. Sometimes by a family member, sometimes by their father, or sometimes by a friend. It starts in early childhood. […] Homosexuality spreads because somebody abused children.
With views like these, it’s little wonder that Owens is struggling to convince people that he, not the NAACP and Obama, is on the side of justice.

 

PFAW Welcomes Nuns On the Bus

PFAW staff and supporters welcomed home the Nuns on the Bus as they arrived in Washington, DC following a two-week tour through nine states. The Catholic sisters went on tour to stand in solidarity with those living in poverty and to push back against the Ryan Budget, which further enriches the wealthiest Americans while slashing vital programs that help our neediest citizens.

The nuns drove through nine states to help spread the word about how the Ryan Budget, which passed the House this year, harms the most vulnerable American families, and does so -- in the words of the nuns -- in violation of Catholic teaching.

Speakers at this afternoon’s rally condemned those in Congress who voted to perpetuate a political system that benefits the privileged few at the expense of the many, limits participation in our democracy in order to maintain an established system that protects the powerful and fails to show compassion for all people. They coined the slogan “Reasonable Revenue for Responsible Programs – the Faithful Way Forward” to illustrate the priorities they would like to see adopted by Congress to help make our communities and country more just for all.

PFAW

PFAW: Supreme Court Ruling on Arizona Law is Important but Limited Victory

The Supreme Court invalidated most provisions of Arizona’s draconian anti-immigration law, known as S.B. 1070, including Section 6 which granted state police greater authority than federal officers to make warrantless arrests of anyone they suspected of being undocumented. The decision upholds, however, the clearly discriminatory Section 2b – the “show me your papers” provision – which allows police to demand proof of immigration status from individuals they stop, detain or arrest. The Court did not rule on challenges to that provision which question its discriminatory effects. It will likely hear additional challenges on those grounds at a later time.

“Today’s decision is a partial but important victory against S.B. 1070,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way, “and yet another reminder of how important it is that Congress move quickly to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The Court’s decision to uphold, for now, one of the most oppressive provisions of S.B. 1070 makes it painfully obvious how damaging the Republican obstruction on comprehensive immigration reform has been. No one should be forced to prove their right to be in this country simply because of the way they look, dress, or speak. These are not the American values we treasure, and we will continue to fight against these provisions in the courts, the Congress, and the halls of state legislatures.

“It’s deeply concerning that Section 2b is still in effect—especially given the reckless and dangerous rhetoric of Governor Brewer and Sheriff Arpaio. Today’s decision is important, but it is certainly not the end of this fight.

“The President recently took a courageous step to help young people – brought to the United States through no fault of their own – stay in this country and continue to contribute to their communities. Republicans in Congress should follow this example and suspend their obstruction of meaningful comprehensive reform to address the immigration crisis. Continuing to shirk that responsibility encourages dangerous state laws that threaten our civil liberties and harms hardworking individuals who have worked hard to live up to American ideals.”

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Waking up from the Nightmare

Although the DREAM Act seemed to remain a dream after being blocked by Senate Republicans in 2010, the Obama administration has recently taken steps to make staying in the United States a reality for thousands of young undocumented immigrants.

Last Friday, President Obama announced a new policy directive to allow undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 to apply for a two-year, renewable work permit if they met an array of criteria, including arriving to the United States before the age of 16, and are in high school, graduated from high school, or were honorably discharged from the armed forces. The plan doesn’t grant amnesty or a road to citizenship; but as the president stated, it is a “temporary solution” and “the right thing to do.”

This decision will positively impact up to 800,000 law-abiding, hard-working Americans who have until now lived in constant fear of deportation. One such DREAMer is 26 year-old Mohammad Abdollahi, who immigrated to this nation at the age of three from Iran. His family’s visa soon expired and was not renewed. Not only has Mohammad had to live the majority of his life in fear of deportation, but the price of being sent back to Iran was incredibly high. Mohammad is openly gay and due to Iran’s policy of capital punishment towards gay individuals, his deportation could be a death sentence.

With his life literally on the line, and running out of options, Mohammad became one of the first students to come out as undocumented in an attempt to pressure congress to pass the DREAM Act in 2010. Although the act didn’t pass, he hasn’t given up the fight. When President Obama made this historic announcement last week, Mohammad was occupying an Obama re-election office in Deerborn, Michigan as a symbolical plea directed towards the president to take action. This change in policy ends this nightmare for Mohammad and so many other DREAMers like him.

In his address in the Rose Garden, President Obama stated, “We are a better nation than one that expels innocent young kids.” Sadly, it seems many Republicans in Congress don’t share this value. After the announcement, Republican House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas claimed, "President Obama's decision to grant amnesty to potentially millions of illegal immigrants is a breach of faith with the American people…It also blatantly ignores the rule of law that is the foundation of our democracy.”

Not only is Rep. Smith just flat wrong to claim that the plan grants “amnesty,” he appears to believe that the foundation of our democracy requires ridding our nation of young, productive and patriotic members of society. Republicans should wake up and embrace this change as an opportunity to finally be a part of a more permanent solution.

PFAW

PFAW Applauds Obama’s Change to Deportation Policy

President Obama announced a new immigration policy today that would allow undocumented residents who would qualify under the DREAM Act to gain work authorization and avoid deportation.

“The President’s announcement today is a victory for common sense,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “This country was built on the premise that each of us is responsible for our own actions. It’s outrageous to punish and deport hard working young people who were brought to this country at a very young age and who want nothing more than to stay here and contribute to their communities.

“While it’s disappointing that Republicans in Congress, even some who have sponsored the DREAM Act in the past, have chosen to play politics with immigration, President Obama’s order today is an important step forward for the country. It draws a sharp contrast between this President’s willingness to stand up for what’s right and the GOP’s willingness to sacrifice the economy and basic fairness in order to cater to an increasingly extreme base.”

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Allen West's "American Way'

Congressman Allen West (R-FL) is out with a new ad this week. Set to soaring, dramatic music, the Congressman tells the story of his upbringing and how describes how his father gave him the opportunity live the American Dream. He runs through typical Republican talking points calling for tax cuts and slashing services, and laments the failings of Washington. It’s standard campaign-ad fare, and he concludes by stating “I’m just getting started; that’s the American Way.”

However, West’s record suggests that his notion of the “American Way” is rather at odds with the Constitution’s promise of freedom and equality for all.

The First Amendment guarantees the freedom of religion for all Americans, and Article VI of the Constitution states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” But West thinks that Representative Keith Ellison (D-MI), a practicing Muslim, represents the "antithesis of the principles upon which this country was established." He also harbors some vehemently anti-Islamic ideas.

America is a country that values free speech and open debate. Yet West has a habit of resorting to calling his colleagues who disagree with him Communists. Liberals, he said, can just “Get the hell out of the United States of America.” 

Freedom of the press doesn’t seem to be high on his list either. He once called for censoring American news agencies for publishing information about the government’s activities.

West believes America is a land of opportunity – something to which he owes his own success – but “equality” and “fairness” somehow fly in the face of liberty. Marriage equality, he says, is not only un-American but will destroy society as we know it.

Congressman West may have produced a slick ad, but the agenda he pushes in Congress would increase inequality, harm working families, destroy core constitutional liberties and cripple Americans’ ability to address pressing problems through government. That’s not the American Way.

PFAW

Fischer: Women Have 'Far More Influence' on the World by Staying Home and Raising Children

Last week, Bryan Fischer was making his case, yet again, that it is liberals who hate women ... especially stay at home moms. This prompted Fischer to go off on a tangent and declare that women can have more influence staying home and raising the next generation of leader than she can by "going out in the world and making her mark out there":

It's not possible to overestimate that value that stay-at-home moms, what they contribute to society by investing their full energies in the children. Where does the next generation of leaders come from? It comes from moms, and dads, who are invested in the lives of their children. So a woman can have far more influence, far more significant impact on the world by giving herself wholly to growing her children up to be responsible, mature adults than she can by going out in the world and making her mark out there.

The implication here, of course, is that "the next generation of leaders" - and every generation of leaders, for that matter -  will be men since every woman should be at home raising children instead of "going out in the world and making her mark out there."

Prop 8 Appeal Sent to the Supreme Court

This afternoon, the full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to hear an appeal of the Prop 8 case.  In February, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit struck down Prop 8, finding California's revocation of the right of same-sex couples to marry same-sex marriage ban to be unconstitutional. The 9th Circuit's decision means that either the Supreme Court will take up the case or the 9th Circuit’s decision striking down the law will stand.

The appeals court ruling is on narrow grounds unique to California, where same-sex couples were left with all the state rights of marriage but not the name. It found that taking away gay and lesbian couples’ designation of “marriage” while leaving their rights unchanged did not serve any of the purposes put forth by its defenders. Instead, its only purpose and effect was to lessen a targeted group’s status and dignity by reclassifying their relationship and families as inferior. The Court did not address the larger question of whether gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry. While the Supreme Court will be presented with the narrower question as framed by the Ninth Circuit, it is impossible to tell, if it agrees to hear the case at all, whether they will rule on this principle or more broadly on the ability of states to deny lesbians and gays the right to marry.

PFAW Foundation

Senate GOP Filibusters Paycheck Fairness Act

Today, the Senate GOP blocked a cloture vote on the motion to proceed to the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help end pay discrimination and help working women close the wage gap in the United States. On average, women in the United States earn only 77 cents to the dollar compared to their male counterparts. The Paycheck Fairness Act would help eliminate the pay gap by providing the tools necessary to help women identify and address pay discrimination in their workplace and in the courts.

Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way, issued the following statement:

“Senate Republicans have once again brought the War on Women to our wallets. Pay discrimination is a real problem that hurts working women and their families, harms the economy and undermines the principle of equality under the law. The Senators blocking this bill are putting the interests of corporate special interests above the needs of American women. Instead of standing up for basic fairness, they have chosen to play politics with the lives of women and their families.”

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AFA's Wilson Warns Marriage Equality Will Make America Disappear: 'This is a Nation-Killing Issue'

After arguing that legalizing same-sex marriage will lead to man-dog and man-car marriage, the American Family Association’s Buster Wilson last week on Today’s Issues alleged that the U.S. may disappear if the country approves marriage equality for gays and lesbians. Wilson stated that “nations in history’s past” that allowed same-sex marriage “no longer exist.” “It is a nation-killing issue,” Wilson stated.

Wilson:  I want to tell you something. We got thirty two or thirty three states when given the opportunity for the people to vote on whether or not to make a constitutional amendment in their state saying that marriage is between one man and one woman, all of the states that have voted on it have voted for it, we’ve got thirty two or thirty three of them now that have voted that way.  What does that tell you?  I believe by and large Americans are of the mindset that if I can try and capture the secular mind of the American public it might be something like this: I don’t care what you do in the privacy of your bedroom, I don’t care who you love or don’t love, but I don’t want to take something that’s s bedrock as marriage for over 5,000 years and put in law that it’s changed.  That’s scary, and it’s wrong. And if you like looking at history at all, it is very easy to see the nations in history’s past that have done that kind of thing no longer exist.  It is a nation-killing issue.

Fischer: 'It is Altogether Right to Discriminate Against Homosexual Behavior'

On Friday, Brian wrote a post taking note of a recent column by Bryan Fischer in which he called on conservatives to "reclaim the ‘D’ word" and begin to boldly defend the practice of discriminating against gays and lesbians.

As Fischer normally does whenever he posts a new piece, he ended up discussing it later that day during his radio program where he made the case that "it is altogether right to discriminate against homosexual behavior" because homosexuality is not something that should be accepted by "any rational society":

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
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