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Washington -- While President Obama campaigned on a pledge to repeal a noxious and divisive law called the Defense of Marriage Act, his Justice Department submitted a pro forma defense of the law earlier this summer. That upset many gay-rights activists, since DOMA, as it's called, is nothing but a bit of homophobic nonsense.

Just last week, though, the Obama administration made clear that it's still committed to getting rid of DOMA. (By longstanding tradition, Justice is obligated to defend laws when they draw legal challenge, a spokesman said.) Repealing it probably won't be as controversial as some Democrats may fear.

The culture has changed considerably since 1996, when a few state legislatures were beginning to seriously debate the concept of extending full marriage equality to gays and lesbians. That's when the GOP rushed to stoke its base of religious conservatives with a law that blocked that full equality. Where tradition (and law) had dictated that a marriage in New York or Hawaii must be recognized in Alabama or Wyoming, the Defense of Marriage Act allowed any state to deny the legitimacy of a same-sex marriage that had taken place elsewhere.

The bill's sweeping prohibitions also deny shared insurance and other work-related benefits to same-sex couples who work for the federal government, all so Congress could pose as the moral defender of traditional marriage. It was a strange pose, given that some of DOMA's staunchest supporters were divorcees and adulterers.

The act was authored by then-Republican Congressman Bob Barr, who was doing a star turn as a fringe lunatic from Georgia. He was already on his third marriage. It was supported by such dutiful husbands as then-U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, now governor of South Carolina, whose marriage is in tatters because his "soul mate" is not his wife.

Democrats jumped on board the hypocrisy train, too, for fear they might encounter a backlash from Bible-thumping voters. The womanizing Bill Clinton signed the legislation, telling The Advocate, a gay-interest newspaper, that "I remain opposed to same-sex marriage. I believe marriage is an institution for the union of a man and a woman."

Thirteen years later, Barr, now a Libertarian, has renounced his infamous legislation, saying it violates the principles of federalism. Clinton says he has no problems with same sex marriage, which six states either permit or will soon. (That period of homophobia did its damage, though. Twenty-eight states adopted amendments to their constitutions forbidding homosexual marriage.)

More pronounced still is the sweeping transformation in attitudes that has occurred just in the last few years. While a slight majority (about 53 percent) of Americans still oppose gay marriage, a similar majority, about 54 percent, supports civil unions, according to the Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life. Civil unions would permit same-sex couples to enjoy many of the legal benefits of marriage.

And the resistance to allowing gays and lesbians traditional marriage will have all but disappeared in a generation or two if current trends continue. Roughly half of adults under the age of 30 support gay marriage.

That said, Republicans can be expected to grandstand, exaggerate and incite fear and loathing when Obama puts the repeal of DOMA at the top of his agenda. Given the hysteria they've created with outright lies over health care reform, it's no telling what doom they'll predict if DOMA is repealed.

One thing they're likely to say -- since some conservatives have already made this claim -- is that laws permitting gay marriage will intrude on religious freedom, forcing churches to perform same-sex marriages. That's sheer and utter nonsense. There is no law that forces a Catholic priest to perform a marriage involving a man who was previously divorced or forcing a Baptist preacher to unite a bride who is six months pregnant with her child's father. Gay marriages would be performed by those religious leaders who believe they are sacred rites, but not by those who are opposed to them.

Marriage as a religious rite is quite separate from marriage as a civil institution. Every day, hundreds of couples show up at courthouses around the country and are married in civil ceremonies without any religious trappings. Gay couples ought to be permitted the same privilege, without restrictions imposed by federal law.

(Cynthia Tucker can be reached at [email protected])


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Comments 14 comments for this article
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Added: August 28, 2009. 03:16 AM CDT
AJC not worth the paper it's printed on
This article is the reason the AJC is bleeding subscribers.
Added: August 25, 2009. 07:26 AM CDT
People. This is an opinion piece. Hello? McFly? By definition this article is biased because it expresses the writer's opinion. I wish we could outlaw stupidity. That would be a wiser use of our tax dollars.
Not dumb
Added: August 21, 2009. 04:22 PM CDT
I think it's funny how one person said this article is biased-not sure what that means-there were only facts presented...does "biased" mean "I don't agree with it"?
Gay marriage is a REAL cultural fact in our country-what is wrong with telling kids TRUTH that some same sex people are married and have kids? Bigots make it sound like kids are being shown gay porn-crazy!
I LOVE that the new generation thinks religious nonsense is so silly-in ten years, gay marriage will be legal eveyrwhere
Praise God-He loves all of his children. seriously-why would God make gay people then hate them? That doesn't make any sense!! The world will be much better when this generation of haters dies off!
Added: August 21, 2009. 03:14 PM CDT
Swaying the masses.
Lets hope that people have learned to identify a clear bias in an article. :)
Added: August 21, 2009. 02:20 PM CDT
Great Article
The question the remains is: if Obama is so committed to repeal DOMA, why hasn't it happened. Could it be that he still is on the campaign trail. We've definitely so quit a lot of Flip-Flopping from him.
It would be time that Obama makes a decision. That what he's doing currently is nothing but trying to keep the GLBT activist quiet. He shouldn't forget that those activist are the ones who helped to elect him. It's time to live up to his promises.
Added: August 21, 2009. 02:01 PM CDT
Excellent column
Thanks for an excellent column that exposes the hypocrisy embodied in DOMA and the harm that it does. I hope that someday this country will truly be what it has claimed to be: a place where all citizens are equal under the law and where people are free to pursue happiness
Added: August 21, 2009. 01:46 PM CDT
Civil ceremonies don't hurt anyone
My dad got married two weeks ago. They went to a civic center, and a clerk of court helped them with the paperwork and then put on a robe and performed a rather nice civil ceremony. I was there as the witness and photographer. Of course, they can't have children. But their getting married shouldn't bother anyone or even come to the notice of most people. It certainly doesn't threaten anyone else's marriage.

Oh, the reason this was legal in California is he married a woman, and they can't have kids because she is over 60. Should what I said should be any different if he had married a man?
Added: August 21, 2009. 09:19 AM CDT
Doing what is right
Dear Ms. Tucker, Thank you for calm, logical and humane comments regarding gay marriage. DOMA is a civil rights issue. Even though we have a long legistaive tradition of dehuamnaizing people who are different, the tradition is wrong.
Added: August 21, 2009. 09:08 AM CDT
I always wonder why Heterosexuals aren't completely embarassed and ashamed that they have been crusading and passing laws AGAINST THE VERY GAY & LESBIAN CHILDREN THEY THEMSELVES CREATED.

What kind of species treats their very own offspring in such a vile and dispicable manner?

How an anti-Gay Heterosexual is able to reconcile this within their soul and spirit is something a rational thinker will never understand.

And using and abusing God to put the stamp of approval on such abuse and mistreatment? Well, I don't think people sink much lower than that.
Added: August 21, 2009. 09:07 AM CDT
It's time America.
Good essay.

Joe Mustich,
Justice of the Peace,
Washington, Connecticut, USA
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