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Repealing the federal "Defense of marriage act of 2011" (DOMA)

2011-OCT to NOV: Opposition/support of Respect
for Marriage Act. Senate committee activity.

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This is a continuation of an earlier essay

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2011-OCT-27: Appeal for funds from Truth in Action Ministries (TIA):

TIA sent an Email to subscribers on its mailing list, raising an alarm about "The Respect for Marriage Act" (RMA)

They state:

"RMA will influence you, your family, and your community by:

  • Requiring additional tax dollars to fund massively expensive federal benefits for same-sex marriages,
  • RMA will open the floodgates to teach homosexuality and same-sex marriage more boldly in our classrooms ... to your children and grandchildren,
  • RMA will repeal the Defense of Marriage Act which defines marriage, for federal purposes, as the union of one man and one woman, and gives states the freedom not to recognize another state‚€™s same-sex 'marriages'.
Truth in Action Ministries is actively engaged in petitioning US representatives in Congress and addressing the issue head on through our multi-media platform."

Their first point is partly true: If DOMA were repealed then the Federal Government would have to recognize all same-sex marriage that had been solemnized and recorded in one of the states. This means that the federal government would have to adopt elementary fairness policies and treat all married couples in the same way. However, some of their readers may assume from their wording that same-sex married couples will get special privileges from some new kind of federal programs specially created for same-sex couples.

It is obvious that such topics as whether to allow abortion access, whether to allow loving committed same-sex couples to marry, whether lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons and transsexuals should be given equal rights, etc. are the most actively debated cultural topics in the early 21st century. All schools need to teach about these topics in order to properly educate the next generation of adults. Teaching these topics from all points of view is particularly important, since about 50% of their student body are female. If current trends continue, in excess of 40% of these female students will have an abortion and many more will consider having one sometime during their life. Also in excess of 5% will discover their sexual orientation to be homosexual or bisexual, and need to be informed in advance about this matter so that they will know how to handle it. That said, neither DOMA nor the RMA contain any clauses related to classroom education.

Although the constitutionality of the clause in DOMA which allows states to refuse to recognize marriages granted by other states has never been tested in court, it is clearly unconstitutional under the "full faith and credit clause" of the U.S. Constitution. That principle was decided decades ago by the U.S. Supreme Court with respect to interracial marriages.

TIA enclosed the word marriage in quotation marks to indicate that they do not recognize legally solemnized and recorded same-sex marriages. 1

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Governor Cuomo (D-NY) calls for repeal of DOMA:

While addressing the Empire State Pride Agenda -- New York State's largest LGBT advocacy group -- said:

"And now we‚€™re going to come with the rest of the equality agenda. Nationwide, there are no federal anti-discrimination laws for LGBT and there need to be. There are no federal anti discrimination laws for housing, or for employment. DOMA has to go away once and for all. We need a real anti-bullying program in this state and in this nation. And we need marriage equality in every state in this nation. Otherwise no state really has marriage equality. And we will not rest until it is a reality."

In an apparent reference to Cuomo possibly running for president in 2012, an attendee said:

"That speech will be remembered as the turning point. People will be talking about that speech in five years." 2

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2011-NOV-01: calls for defense of the Defense of Marriage Act:

Brian Burch, President of, sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Charles Grassley calling on Republicans to vigorously defend the Defense of Marriage Act. He wrote:

"Far from respecting the institution of marriage, this bill would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, which passed both the House and the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996.

Those favoring repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act claim that public opinion has radically shifted in the 15 years since DOMA first became law and that the American people no longer support marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

But these claims are bogus. When given a chance to decide at the ballot box, Americans have voted in favor of marriage in 31 out of 31 states from coast to coast, from California to Maine. 3

In reality, when DOMA was passed, national polls showed that support by adults for SSM was only 28% and opposition was 65%. The most recent data shows that most American adults now support SSM: recent polls average about 53% support and 45% opposition for a margin of 8 percentage points. Further, for the past few decades, support has continually increased and opposition decreased.

His reference to Americans voting "in favor of marriage" is really referring to citizen initiatives and constitutional amendments in conservative states that voted against marriage for loving committed same-sex couples. Over time, measures in favor of restricting marriage as a special privilege only for opposite-sex couples have passed by ever shrinking margins. In California, A recent vote prohibited SSM by a very small majority; if one in 40 voters had changed their mind and voted in favor of SMM, same-sex couples would be able to marry in that state today. Some commentators feel that basic human rights such as the right to marry should not be decided by popular vote -- particularly one where opinion was so evenly divided.

Brian's letter continued:

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York clearly stated in a letter to President Obama why defending marriage is so crucial:

'Our profound regard for marriage as the complementary and fruitful union of a man and a woman does not negate our concern for the well-being of all people but reinforces it. While all persons merit our full respect, no other relationships provide for the common good what marriage between husband and wife provides. The law should reflect this reality'." 3

These beliefs are presumably derived from the Roman Catholic's position that homosexual orientation is intrinsically disordered and that it is moral to discriminate against LGBTs. This position is rejected by religious liberals, many Christian mainline denominations, and professional associations of psychiatrists, psychologies, and social.

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2011-NOV-03: Senate Committee considers DOMA repeal bill:

The Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled the start of debate on the Respect for Marriage bill for Thursday, NOV-03.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, sponsor of a corresponding RMA bill in the House, said:

"It‚€™s a step. But it‚€™s not going to go anywhere in the House right now." 2

Because of a request by Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA), who favors retention of DOMA, further consideration of the bill has been delayed. Committee Chairperson Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said the Respect for Marriage Act would be "... voted on one way or the other next week" during the committee‚€™s next executive session. This is not an unusual development. The committee has held over action on every bill that it has considered so far this year. The markup and vote is now scheduled for 2011-NOV-10.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), sponsors the legislation. She noted that in 1996, she was one of 14 senators who voted against DOMA. She said:

"DOMA, in my view, is clearly discriminatory. So, in my view, DOMA is a pernicious denial to one class of legally married couples of more than 1,100 federal rights and benefits that are provided to all other members of that class -- legally married couples."

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) noted an observation by Alexis de Tocqueville, who wrote "The one thing that distinguishes America from any other country is the inexorable march to equality." Schumer said:

"That march continues. It still burns brightly in the American breast that we should treat everybody equally. The repeal of DOMA will be a large step in that direction. It will happen. It will happen, and let‚€™s just hope it happens sooner rather than later." 4

That wish seems a little naive because it is very likely that there will be very few if any votes by Republicans for the bill either in the Senate Committee. or the full Senate. There will also be few if any Republican votes for the corresponding bill in the House. Because of the Republican majority in the House, this bill has no chance to reach the President's desk. The only feasible route to achieve marriage equality before 2013 is to have DOMA declared unconstitutional in the courts.

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The story continues....

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, "How will you define marriage?" Truth in Action Ministries, 2011-OCT-27 mailing.
  2. Julie Bolcer, "Cuomo calls for end of DOMA,", 2011-OCT-28, at:
  3. "Senate Republicans should defend the Defense of Marriage Act,", 2011-NOV-01, at:
  4. Chris Johnson, "Senate committee holds over DOMA repeal vote," Washington Blade, 2011-NO-03, at:

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Copyright © 2011 & 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-SEP-11
Latest update: 2012-MAR-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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