Oct 6, 2011
On September 21, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Large majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate supported the law. This federal law upholds the definition of marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. The law stipulates that no state can be required to recognize as a marriage a same-sex relationship recognized as marriage by another state.
However, the federal government has now taken a much different approach to the understanding of marriage and with serious and far-reaching practical consequences. The executive branch of the federal government is required to uphold the nation’s laws. Yet, early this year, the Department of Justice announced that it will no longer defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act. If that were not enough, the same Department of Justice is taking an active role in attacking the law.
On July 1, 2011, the Department of Justice, under President Obama, filed a brief in the case Golinski v. U.S. Office of Personnel Management. The government is against the Defense of Marriage Act on the grounds that promoting marriage as a union of one man and one woman is a form of discrimination based on sexual orientation. Framing the question of same-sex marriage in this way not only clouds the issue, but distorts the truth.
Discrimination springs from prejudice. It denies to some the rights that others enjoy. Our country suffered through the injustice of not allowing blacks the right to vote, while others could. Those who do not accept same-sex marriage cannot be labeled prejudiced. They do not advocate that only heterosexuals have the right to vote, to hold political office, to live, to work and to dine where they choose. The real question is not who has the right to marry. The underlying question is what marriage really is. To label as prejudiced and discriminating anyone who holds that marriage is between a man and a woman is to move the issue into an emotional arena where it does not belong.