Obama and the Defense of Marriage Act – The Right Call?

By YeOldeScribe ~ March 1st, 2011 @ 9:03 pm

With all the political strife going on in the Middle East and the Midwest, a relatively large tidbit slipped under most people’s political radar this week. On Wednesday, Feb. 23rd, President Barack Obama announced that he has instructed the U.S Department of Justice to no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. From Attorney General Eric Holder, “The president has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny… Given that conclusion, the president has instructed the (Justice Department) not to defend the statute in two pending cases in New York state.”

It’s always very easy to offend even the most sensible people when social issues like gay marriage/gay rights and politics mix, but it’s a discussion that has to come up, especially in our more modern society, and especially for progressives. We’ll do our best to state what we believe quickly, and move on to the much more disturbing facet of today’s news. First, PoliticalProgressives.com believes in equal rights for all people. Second, we believe that marriage is more of a religious right than a political one. Therefore, we’re fully in support of civil unions – the idea that GLBT members in a committed relationship should receive the same benefits and treatment under the law as heterosexual couples. We also believe that it’s up to the populous to decide (in terms of politics) what marriage means. If people vote in favor of gay marriages, that should be the law of the land.

However, that’s not the case in (most of) America. Most states have passed legislation banning gay marriages (and some even banned civil unions), and many others have failed to pass policy advocating gay marriage. In fact, the highest law of the land says the opposite. However you feel about the Defense of Marriage Act  – which classifies marriage as between one man and one woman – it’s the law, until it gets changed. And because it’s the law, we are respectfully disheartened by Obama’s decision to ignore it.

Our government works because there’s checks and balances. The really, really watered down version of this political theory applied to America is that the Executive branch leads the government, the legislature creates the laws for the government, and the judiciary determines the constitutionality of those laws .  By ordering the DOJ to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act when it’s challenged in lower courts, Obama has essentially declared the act unconstitutional. Our only problem with that is… um… he’s not supposed to be able to do that. The system was created the way it was so that one person can’t hold all the power. Even if Obama thought the law was unjust, there are slightly more legal ways to change laws than to just arbitrarily stop enforcing them. This smacks of when Andrew Jackson said something to the effect of: “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!” after the court’s decision in Worcester v. Georgia, giving more rights to Native Americans. In short, regardless of who’s leading it, when a branch oversteps its powers as outlined in the constitution, it’s never a good thing.

Regardless of your position on gay marriage, we hope you can see why Obama’s decision is so troubling. Frankly, we’re surprised this isn’t making more noise – were it not for a brief mention in CNN’s blog (it wasn’t even important enough for a full story apparently), we would have missed out on this story. As progressives, it’s our job to hold the government accountable for their actions, regardless of how we personally feel about who’s leading it or the issue at hand. Laws are laws, separation of powers are there for a reason, and that (should be) the end of the story. Shame on Obama for not remembering his 7th grade civics.

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