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What the DOMA Repeal Vote Really Means

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The Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to repeal the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act. Now it moves to a Senate that’s hostile to marriage equality — but that’s actually okay.

On one side: ten Senate co-sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Dianne Feinstein of California, Chuck Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Al Franken of Minnesota, Christopher Coons of Delaware, and Dick Blumenthal of Connecticut.

On the other side: eight opponents of marriage equality. That’s Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas, Michael Lee of Utah, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

Right now the case against DOMA is racing through all three branches of government. This latest advance is in the Legislative branch, but the Executive branch also stands against DOMA, and there’s a slew of cases working their way through federal courts.

Meanwhile, although AFER’s case, Perry v. Brown. concerns Prop 8 instead of DOMA, the arguments are similar: marriage discrimination violates the Constitution of the United States, whether it’s DOMA or whether it’s Proposition 8.

Orrin Hatch may have had the hearing’s strangest argument — he claimed that DOMA protects states’ rights. But no. Look at the law. DOMA has 3 parts. Part 1’s just the name. Part 2 prevents LGBT couples from moving their marriage from one state to another — so if you’re married in Iowa and you move to Utah, your marriage evaporates and there’s nothing Iowa can do to protect you. And Part 3 is even worse: it changed the federal definition of marriage, forcing federal agencies to ignore marriages. So even if you’re married in Iowa and you stay in Iowa, every single federal agency will work to undermine that marriage.

That’s why this state-by-state patchwork of marriage laws is so unfair. You’re married over here, you’re not over there, you’ve got to fill out four different sets of taxes, the YMCA can tell that you’re married but the IRS can’t. This is why full federal marriage equality is the only solution.

Senator Whitehouse put it best. He said that his constituents in Rhode Island are “prejudiced needlessly under this law. … We owe them better. We should treat [their] commitment with respect.”

And Senator Franken was even more succinct. “DOMA hurts families.”

The 10-to-8 victory for the Respect for Marriage Act means it now moves to the full Senate, where it has the support of 31 Senators. It’s pretty unlikely that it’ll be brought up for a vote anytime soon, but that’s fine — it gives time for support to grow in Congress.

Meanwhile, our case continues its expedited progress through the federal courts. Ari Ezra Waldman had a great piece on Towleroad this week about why we get more strength from legal arguments than from popular elections. Remember the misleading ads in California? Our opponents spent millions to trick Californians into thinking that Prop 8 had something to do with protecting marriage.

But when they’re in court, they’re under oath, and “limited by the compulsion to tell the truth.” And that’s why they’re trying to hide. They want to hide their names. They want to hide their arguments. They want to hide the tapes of the trial … because they know they have no case.

And if the country had voted on interracial marriage, it wouldn’t have been legal until the 1990s. It was a visionary Supreme Court that ruled in Loving v. Virginia that marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” and that marriage bans are “subversive to the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled 14 times that marriage is a fundamental American freedom. And soon, we’re going to make that 15 times. See you in court.

9 Comments

  • 1. James Sweet  |  November 11, 2011 at 8:21 am

    The "part 2" as you call it could be interpreted to be protecting states' rights. I don't entirely reject that argument. The problems with that are:

    1) It focuses on LGBT marriage and not on marriage in general. In order to straight-facedly argue that it is purely a states' rights issue, it would have to say that state X does not have to recognize a marriage performed in state Y if they don't want to, PERIOD. It can't be restricted to only same-sex marriages.
    2) Nobody has really quite explained why states' rights are such a good thing to begin with…
    3) The "Part 3" as you call it has nothing to do with states' rights whatsoever.

  • 2. Ronnie  |  November 11, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Subscribing & sharing…….

    Sen. Blumenthal Stands Up for Lesbian Binational Couple: http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2011/11/1

    "Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is calling on the Department of Homeland Security to put on hold, rather than outright deny, a marriage-based green card petition brought by a Connecticut lesbian couple. "

    Blumenthal wrote of Kelli Ryan and her British-born wife, Lucy Truman: “Having been lawfully married in Connecticut, they now seek to establish long-term roots in our state. … The United States stands to lose two highly intelligent and talented women to the United Kingdom if Lucy – a talented clinician, scientist, and valuable member of our community – is not able to stay in the United States[.]”

    Read more about the couple via Immigration Equality: http://www.immigrationequality.org/2011/11/senato

    <3…Ronnie

  • 3. Ronnie  |  November 11, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Subscribing & sharing…….

    Sen. Blumenthal Stands Up for Lesbian Binational Couple: http://www.advocate.com/News/Daily_News/2011/11/1

    "Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is calling on the Department of Homeland Security to put on hold, rather than outright deny, a marriage-based green card petition brought by a Connecticut lesbian couple. "

    Blumenthal wrote of Kelli Ryan and her British-born wife, Lucy Truman: “Having been lawfully married in Connecticut, they now seek to establish long-term roots in our state. … The United States stands to lose two highly intelligent and talented women to the United Kingdom if Lucy – a talented clinician, scientist, and valuable member of our community – is not able to stay in the United States[.]”

    Read more about the couple via Immigration Equality: http://www.immigrationequality.org/2011/11/senato

    <3…Ronnie

  • 4. Steve  |  November 11, 2011 at 9:34 am

    The thing is that Section 2 isn't needed for states to refuse recognizing out-of-state marriages. They could always refuse to honor any kind of marriage they didn't want. Through the public policy exception of the Full Faith and Credit Clause for example. Repealing it won't result in nation wide marriage equality

  • 5. Reformed  |  November 11, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    So, its really how you ask the question:
    Should recogniation of marriage equality be allowed at the federal level. vs.

    Should recognition of marriage equality be required at the federal level in order to prevent parties to these marriages from engaging in nepotism.

    Given the intellectual challanges of our opposition, I would expect the second question to poll higher with them. Maybe even higher if nepotism were in bold and all caps. They would think it is some sort of abomination and check that box off right away.

  • 6. truthspew  |  November 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Sheldon is one of my Senators and I worked for him when he was Attorney General in Rhode Island. He is, in two words, a great guy.

    One example I can give. We had a major server crash one evening. At about 1AM Sheldon shows up with beer and shrimp cocktail. I mean come on, he knows his I.T. staff is working hard and he brings us beer and food! That's the mark of a great guy!

    And his statement and support of repealing DOMA, I'm really happy he's a Senator, and more to the point a Senator from Rhode Island.

  • 7. Toine  |  November 12, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Each time the high court has recognized "marriage as a fundamental right" they were referring to exclusively heterosexual marriages. The failure of the LGBT community to recognize the independent legal significance of that is pure ostrich with its head stuck in the sand denial.

  • 8. Ronnie  |  November 12, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    ROFL….. MAUDE!!!!….. OTIO……. oIo ……..8 / ….Ronnie

  • 9. Malia Ruiz&hellip  |  November 21, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Malia Ruiz…

    wow, awesome blog.Thanks Again. Will read on……

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