Colorado Congressman Jared Polis joined with more than a hundred members of Congress to re-introduce the Respect for Marriage Act, a bill that would repeal the ban on same-sex marriage put in place by the federal Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Polis urged members of Congress to support New York Rep. Jarred Nadler’s legislation as a matter of fairness and states’ rights.
“This is an issue where the American people, the culture of our country, has moved ahead of the politicians here in Washington. State after state has acted to allow marriages between people of the same sex and yet our federal government continues to refuse to recognize those marriages.”
Polis said it was important to put marriage in the same category as other civil rights by moving to make official distinction between religious and civil categories. He compared the right to marriage to the right to divorce, for instance, a legal right not always recognized in the realm of region and faith.
“Where we fall down as a country on this issue is when we conflate the religious definition of marriage with the legal definition of marriage… Anybody in this country,” for example, he said, “should be able to get divorced before the law and not be locked into a marriage for life.”
Same-sex marriages have already been legalized in many states, he said. Nadler’s bill would ensure that the federal government recognizes those marriages.
“This is a critical real life issue for gay and lesbian families across the country, whether it’s gay and lesbian families, multinational couples facing immigration issues, whether it’s families with kids, whether it’s dealing with end-of-life issues, whether it’s the very important tax implications of survivorship and estate, or many of the other rights that go along with marriage.”
The Obama Administration recently decided that the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA was likely unconstitutional for the way it discriminates against gay citizens. The president announced that the Justice Department would no longer defend DOMA in court.
Social conservatives were aghast at the announcement and, in response, Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner said the House Legal Advisory Group would defend DOMA in place of the administration. Legal analysts have suggested the group will fail in those efforts.
In explaining the Administration’s move, Attorney General Holder wrote that the government must demonstrate a very good reason for excluding a historically disadvantaged group from marriage rights and the reasons given in 1996 now seem insupportable. Writing at Slate, Linda Hirshman said it’s worse than that. She said that in light of how the discussion on homosexuality has advanced in the last 15 years, the original arguments given in support of DOMA are anachronistic– and in the worst kind of way.
“The Republican DOMA defenders are going to have to advance those arguments. They aren’t pretty,” she said. “Wait till they see what they have to argue. What looked like a good idea in the Speakers’ conference room is going to look very different in the cold light of the courthouse.”