Thursday, February 24, 2011

No Defense of the Defense of Marriage Act

Wow, it’s nice to write about some good news on occasion and this is one of those occasions. The Obama administration, after its initial and overly spirited defense, has officially decided to leave DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) to the courts without administration support. In fact, the administration will now argue that DOMA is unconstitutional, effectively siding with claimants in federal court.

This is a great and long overdue day. With no government support for DOMA, it should be a matter of time before the act loses multiple challenges in district courts around the country. Barring other groups being permitted to argue on behalf of DOMA, doubtful due to issues of standing, there would be essentially no arguments on behalf of the act for a judge to hear. It’s certainly conceivable that a conservative judge could simply dismiss arguments against DOMA but that would be unusual and would certainly be appealed.

Most observers seem to believe that the issue would eventually land at the supreme court for a final nationwide decision. The administration is remaining a party to existing lawsuits, permitting them to proceed through the system and providing cover for other petitioners to actively argue on behalf of the act, assuming issues of standing don’t preclude that.

The real issue as I see it is time. Is there enough time remaining in Obama’s term to guarantee that challenges to DOMA wend their way through the courts or could a republican president reverse Obama’s decision and begin supporting the law in court before it is dead in judicial waters?

Either way, this is a welcome step on the long and arduous road to equality for a long suffering minority of our citizens. I have to say that it’s not the ringing endorsement of equality that many of us would hope for from this administration. In fact they are painting it as something they have been forced to do by a court deadline. Regardless, the bottom line is that the administration is stating that the act is unconstitutional on its face and should be overturned by the courts. There won’t be much political cover for that.

So. . . politically? I’m not even going to speculate about 2012. There’s already way too much chatter on that subject in our 24/7, year in year out election coverage. I certainly don’t need any more of that, do you?

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