Doing the DOMA Dance

Becky Garrison:  You can’t really call it a tango.  
On February 22, 2011, Jeffrey White, a Federal judge in the U.S. District Court of Northern California, ruled the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be unconstitutional when he found that Karen Golinski, an attorney and employee of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, had her rights violated under the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution when she was denied spousal benefits that heterosexual employees receive. The full opinion can be found at Think Progress.

As reported by The San Jose Mercury News, a group of congressional Republicans defending the federal gay-marriage ban immediately appealed the ruling. And to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the same court that earlier this month ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional, thus paving the way for marriages to be legal again in California.

While the US Supreme Court has not yet decided if they will hear an appeal to overturn White’s decision, those religious warriors battling to maintain the sanctity of “traditional marriage” received a setback when the Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal from the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) on a Maine case.  NOM, a non-profit organization with a mission to “protect marriage and the faith communities that sustain it,” challenged a Maine law that requires the group to name its donors, although a second appeal to allow the list to remain private is still pending.

While the Obama administration has stated they will no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA, the ongoing debates in North Carolina on the proposed Amendment One highlight how marriage equality will remain a hot button issue heading into the 2012 election. For example, Hawaii’s Governor Neil Abercrombie says that he believes the state’s law prohibiting same-sex marriage is unconstitutional but his Attorney General’s office said it will continue to defend it in federal court. Meanwhile, lawmakers in New Hampshire are threatening to repeal its two-year old law allowing gay couples to wed.  Similar efforts are being made in other states like Maryland.

Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire are among the Democratic leaders urging their party to adopt a marriage equality plank. Conversely, one can expect the Republican Party to re-affirm or possibly strengthen their commitment to preserving “traditional” marriage–as outlined in the 2008 Republican platform.

On their blog, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) reflected on the cultural shifting that has transpired regarding acceptance of lesbians and gays since DOMA became federal law in 1996.  Despite that shift–which has highlighted the Republican party’s minority position on marriage–the legislative dance floor continues to look more like a mosh pit.

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