So the Defense of Marriage Act has been kind of an embarrassment ever since it was created in 1996. Basically, it makes a special little exemption in federal law to hurt gay people by having the federal government refuse to recognize gay marriages on a federal level the way it does straight marriage. While gay marriage is legal in some states, the DOMA made it so that getting married in Massachusetts wouldn’t necessarily mean that your marriage was recognized in Kansas. So instead of something that could be found constitutional and generalized to the rest of the states, it became a slog through each and every one of the 50 state legislative and judicial bodies.
It kinda sucked. And it’s why gay marriage has been an issue for goddamn forever. There was also, really, absolutely no defense for the law. The reasoning boiled down to “Tradition?” and “Eeew”. It was designed from the get-go as a way of preventing the country from having to face up to the fact that it could not discriminate against a group of people simply because it had grown comfortable doing so.
Which is why it’s nice to hear that after 2 years of defending it, Eric Holder has decided that he’s tired of bullshitting. From the NYT:
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced the decision in a letter to members of Congress. In it, he said the administration was taking the extraordinary step of refusing to defend the law, despite having done so during Mr. Obama’s first two years in the White House.
“The president and I have concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation” should be subjected to a strict legal test intended to block unfair discrimination, Mr. Holder wrote. As a result, he said, a crucial provision of the Defense of Marriage Act “is unconstitutional.”
DOMA was created to discriminate against US citizens for no good goddamn reason. Now, it’s likely dead in the water. Soon, more people who love each other will probably be able to get married without it being such a big fucking deal.
Slacktivist also has some choice words on the subject:
And so yesterday the attorney general and President Barack Obama let it be known that since the Defense of Marriage Act was indefensible, they would no longer try to defend it.
That’s big news. What’s most telling here is that this forward-moving reversal arose from the Justice Department, which had been tasked with the unenviable job of providing valid and compelling legal arguments for inequality under the law. Like everyone else who has tried, they found that impossible. And unlike many others who are still trying, they decided to stop faking it and just admit that the Constitution and particularly the 14th Amendment really don’t allow for that sort of unequal treatment.
Ed Whelan, president of the cleverly named Ethics and Public Policy Center, spoke for opponents of marriage equality everywhere yesterday on NPR’s All Things Considered, saying: “There are lots of reasonable arguments to be offered in defense of the Defense of Marriage Act.”
This is what we’ve come to expect from the incredibly shrinking opposition to marriage equality: 1) the assertion that there are “lots” of excellent, terribly important arguments in support of a legal ban against same-sex couples getting married, and 2) the failure to mention what all those “lots” of excellent, terribly important arguments might actually be.
This is a pretty good thing that just happened, good on President Obama for delivering some sensible governance.