Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

DOMA must go…..

It is not a liberal who's saying this. It is the author of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) former Congressman Bob Barr saying so.

Crossposted at MyDD

First he admits that DOMA was indeed designed to pre-empt the judicial process.

DOMA was indeed designed to thwart the then-nascent move in a few state courts and legislatures to afford partial or full recognition to same-sex couples. The Hawaii court case Baehr vs. Lewin, still active while DOMA was being considered by Congress in mid-1996, provided the immediate impetus.

 Barr explains in his column in LATimes that there are two parts to DOMA and their explicit aims.

The Hawaii court was clearly leaning toward legalizing same-sex marriages. So the first part of DOMA was crafted to prevent the U.S. Constitution's "full faith and credit" clause — which normally would require State B to recognize any lawful marriage performed in State A — from being used to extend one state's recognition of same-sex marriage to other states whose citizens chose not to recognize such a union….

 However, we did incorporate into DOMA's second part a definition of marriage that comported with the historic — and, at the time, widely accepted — view of the institution as being between a man and a woman only. But this definition was to be used solely to interpret provisions of federal law related to spouses….

 Barr wrestled with the unconstitutionality of the DOMA like President-elect Obama. Today he concludes that DOMA actually had become a 'club' to prevent the ability of a State to recognize same-sex unions.

In effect, DOMA's language reflects one-way federalism: It protects only those states that don't want to accept a same-sex marriage granted by another state. Moreover, the heterosexual definition of marriage for purposes of federal laws — including, immigration, Social Security survivor rights and veteran's benefits — has become a de facto club used to limit, if not thwart, the ability of a state to choose to recognize same-sex unions.

Then it seems that Barr's libertarian side is winning over his conservative religious side. He wrote "It truly is time to get the federal government out of the marriage business. In law and policy, such decisions should be left to the people themselves."Can't say it any better….

Even more so now than in 1996, I believe we need to reduce federal power over the lives of the citizenry and over the prerogatives of the states. It truly is time to get the federal government out of the marriage business. In law and policy, such decisions should be left to the people themselves.

 And he agrees with our famed Constitutional Scholar President elect Obama….

In 2006, when then-Sen. Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, he said, "Decisions about marriage should be left to the states." He was right then; and as I have come to realize, he is right now in concluding that DOMA has to go. If one truly believes in federalism and the primacy of state government over the federal, DOMA is simply incompatible with those notions.

 Thirteen years ago, this man was the architect of a highly discriminatory law. He is still not admitting that DOMA is plain and simple legitimized discrimination practised by Government against the same sex couples. But from the State's rights perspective, he is coming to the same conclusion as Obama and rest of us that DOMA needs to go. And it seems that he is moving towards a position that Government should not be in business of denying marriage status to folks based on sexual orientation.

Congressman, I don't think I liked your politics in 90s, but today your column opened the door for dialog on this important issue a little bit..For that, a big Thank you.

Read Bob Barr's full column at Los Angeles Times.

Link to LATimes


  1. The thin edge of the wedge is in.  Much much more than dictating religion or morality, the true conservative/libertarian view is: “Get off my lawn!”  DOMA (and prop 8/2) are invitations to have the government tromp on your lawn…

  2. Strummerson

    I also want the government out of the marriage business.  I want some civil mechanism that allows for consenting adults to enter into domestic arrangements with legally rights and privileges.  The question of whether that should be limited to the number 2 requires debate.

    But I don’t see it happening.

    Given that the state amendments, as we have here in MI, generally also attempt to impede civil unions and domestic partnerships, it’s “marriage for all” or “marriage for no one.”  The latter is politically unfeasible.  The former might be as well.  But if the fight for marriage equality only leads to a compromise regarding civil unions and domestic partnerships that have ALL the rights and privileges of marriage, and I mean ALL of them, so that the difference is purely nominal, that will be good enough for me.  I will also press for a simple avenue, say a single page form, to legally change the designation of marriage my wife and I now benefit from to the alternative.  We are married, after all, not because of a civil license, but because we stood under a wedding canopy surrounded by family and friends.  

  3. I can’t understand why it was passed, and that’s because I fail to understand the polarisation of the culture wars in the US. Well, when I say understand, I mean understand the point beyond Republican gaming strategy.

    If this opens up the door for dialogue, then that’s brilliant. One of the things I’ve noticed since the 1980s when I first lived in the US is that the polarisation has become poisonous. In the 1980s in the UK, I wouldn’t ever date a conservative, and only talk to one with caution, however I was amazed then at the ideological proximity between Republicans and Democrats in the US.

    Over the last twenty years, those polarisations have reversed. Though I still think of myself on the left, many conservatives in the UK have liberal social positions and conservative economic ones (or vice versa) so I never make a pure judgement of all their attitudes based on their politics anymore.

    In the US, over the last 20 years, the polarisation has increased, and I’ve met both in real life, and on these blogs, intense personal ad hominem hatreds of anyone who is a ‘rethug’ or a ‘librul’.

    This kind of goat and sheep thinking does nothing to move progressive values on, it just freezes it, like two old wooly mammoths rutting in a glacier.  

    So I’m glad there’s some movement from an unexpected quarter, and democrats – no matter their ideological purities – should respond in kind.  

  4. HappyinVT

    Or is this just a political victory that doesn’t mean anything in practical terms?  I’m not trying to minimize its meaning, rather I’m trying to figure out what its meaning is.

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