Pres. Obama is seeking to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and introduce a Respect for Marriage Act in its place. But some are confused as to what the exact differences are between the two and why the need for Congress to repeal the DOMA in the first place, as well as the president’s refusal of defending it this year.
Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law in September of ’96, effectively seeking to put an end at the time to the question of what legally constitued a marriage: a union between a man and a woman.
Congress, operating at the request of the will of the people, supported the legislative effort introduced to them that year in May, with the House voting in great support (342 to 67) of the bill and the Senate also having a majority support of its passage (85 to 14).
The bill essentially defined that marriage, at the federal level, would only be recognized as between one man and one woman, effectively eliminating bigamy, same-sex unions and other definitions of marriage.
DOMA did not infringe upon state rights as to the classification of marriage, however, continuing to allow each geographical area to define marriage in their own terms. The Respect for Marriage Act, however, would infringe on state rights this way.
Obama refuses to defend DOMA
The Huffington Post reported that Pres. Obama recently went on record for refusing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act this year.
Obama is supporting a new legislative proposal, instead, which was originally introduced by democratic Senator Diane Feinstein — and re-introduced to the House by democratic House Rep. Jerry Nadler, according to the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender agendas.
That legislative effort is known as the Respect for Marriage Act and seeks to replace the Defense of Marriage Act.
So what’s the difference between the two Acts, and why would the president refuse to defend an existing marriage law of the land many wonder?
Significantly, the difference boils down to each state either having the freedom to determine if same-sex marriage will be a decision their citizens can choose to reject or embrace or whether the federal government will make the decision for all citizens of every state.
While it is the duty of the president to support the laws of the land he is entrusted to lead — and the government to implement and enforce said laws — it is actually the people, through Congress, that are tasked with making and repealing laws and legislation.
But Pres. Obama’s refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act — and his promotion of new legislation aimed at undermining the existing marriage law (DOMA), despite its being passed by a strong congressional majority and the fact that it enjoyed strong public support when passed — is concerning to many.
Respect for Marriage Act
The Respect for Marriage Act seeks to strip states of their ability to determine the language that defines marriage, according to the official summary of the bill at Open Congress.
In the original Defense of Marriage Act, states enjoyed the freedom to determine how they would define marriage for their state, respective of the federal government’s definition that it was a union between one man and one woman.
This meant that Georgia could prohibit same-sex marriage, while Connecticut could embrace it. At the federal level, however, both states had to limit the legal recognition of marriage as to one man and one woman for purposes of federal benefits.
In the Respect for Marriage Act same-sex proponents — and the president — contend that marriage will be defined — and recognized — by the federal government as any union more or less: same-sex, heterosexual or whatever, essentially.
Respect for Marriage forces same-sex definition on states
But that’s not all. In addition, states that previously chose to adopt the legal definition of marriage as one man and one woman will be forced to “recognize any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other state, territory, possession or tribe respecting a same-sex marriage.”
In other words, the state of Georgia, for example, will be required to honor a same-sex marriage from Connecticut — one of the first states to embrace same-sex marriages legally — despite Georgia’s refusal to recognize or allow same-sex marriage in the state previously.
Opponents of the Respect for Marriage Act cite the fact that rather than address an alleged grievance about federal benefits not being received by same-sex couples in the limited number of states that support homosexual marriage, the Respect for Marriage Act is really about forcing all the other states to allow same-sex marriage within their state by passing this new legislation and repealing the Defense of Marriage Act.
DOMA repeal efforts and Respect for Marriage Act
Pres. Obama could easily lend support for a legislative bill that would seek to allow federal benefits to homosexual unions of couples living in states that sanction that legal term of marriage and take a hands-off approach to the more than 35 states that do not support such unions.
Instead, he is seeking the passage of a bill into law that will force every state in the union to adopt the definition of marriage that includes same-sex unions, despite the rights of each state to choose how to define marriage within their own borders.
This is an attempt by the president and the federal government to force states to acquiesce to an agenda not supported by the majority of citizens in the country rather than an effort to provide benefits to same-sex couples in states that approve homosexual unions and define them as a “marriage.”
Georgia’s position on DOMA repeal and Respect for Marriage Act
Ten years after the passage of the Defense of Marriage Act, Georgia was still dealing blows to the gay rights movement and prohibiting same-sex marriage in the Peach State, according to the Washington Post. At that time, in 2006, so was New York, which, until 2011, was also prohibiting same-sex unions.
Now, with New York acquiescing to same-sex marriage — and attempting to force the federal government to recognize it as well, thus sparking the Respect for Marriage Act currently being pushed by Pres. Obama — some wonder if Georgia will eventually follow suit.
Looking at it historically, it does not appear Georgia is in danger of embracing the same-sex marriage agenda, willingly, any time soon, as Mayor Shirley Franklin’s efforts on behalf of the LGBT community against a local club — that would not recognize gay couples as “families” — resulted only after much political arm wrangling, according to the AP Roundtable.
That most likely explains why Pres. Obama is seeking to take the control out of each state’s hands, as opponents of same-sex marriage fear. Pro-family groups in Georgia and elsewhere want to know if Congress will support or prevent the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act. For more information on the Act, access this link: House co-sponsors of the Respect for Marriage Act