Saturday, June 13, 2009

DOMA: Did Obama Make A Big Mistake?

First off, a few things.

1) I was not pissed off about the CA State Court decision regarding Prop 8. According to the California state constitution, you can petition an amendment, get the required number of signatures to put said amendment on the ballot, and then open it to an election. This is what the supporters of Prop 8 did and what they did was legal. Was it right? No, but that's not what the court was ruling: they ruled that it was legal. I expected it. I'm not sure why other gays and gay supporters didn't.

2) I am not expecting President Obama to support or even legislate gay marriage. He said he was against it in the primaries and throughout the election. I'm not sure why other gays and gay supporters think that he was for it when he clearly stated that he was against it.

3) Given #2 as well as the fact that no alternative has been suggested by Congress, I expected him to uphold DOMA.

Those three things said, I am surprised that the brief they used to uphold DOMA was so inflammatory. The brief reads like it was written by Jerry Falwell. Gays cost the federal government too much money? Gays can enter into a sham marriage with someone of the opposite sex just to get the benefits? Can anyone read this thing with a straight face? (no pun intended).

The brief bases all of its arguments on a court decision back in 1971, in which it was ruled that gays did not have the right to marry each other. Social conservatives have used this ruling over and over again to justify their position. The problem is that the ruling took place over 40 years ago and the arguments that were made then are not the same arguments made in 2009. The brief should have taken into account present day arguments: it did not.

I'd have thought Obama was a bit smarter than this, but apparently I was wrong. If he was going to uphold DOMA, he should have used a less inflammatory (and might I add, dated) brief. So we've got two possibilities here:

1) It was an after thought. The administration realized that they would have to issue a brief, didn't take the time to draft one, and then used a holdover brief from the Bush Administration without even doing a spot check. Which shows that Obama doesn't hate U.S. homosexual citizens, he just doesn't care.

or 2) The administration read the brief and approved it.

Neither one of these scenarios bodes well for the gay rights movement in the United States.

Proof of this is found in another one of the brief's arguments, in which it states that the federal government has no obligation to recognize the rights granted by the state. So theoretically, we could have 45 states allowing legal same sex marriages but the federal government has no right to recognize them. Considering the recent decisions of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Iowa, this part of the brief is the most damaging (I think). It's setting up the situation where gays and lesbians are equal on a state level, but not on a federal level. Meaning: expect fair treatment from the state but not from the White House. Put more bluntly: the White House doesn't care what your state rules, it's still going to discriminate against you.

Not surprising to learn that this brief was drafted by a Bush appointee. President Obama has claimed that he would not use executive power to live in a vacuum like President Bush, but this brief essentially says that, at least on the issue of gay rights, he will follow Bush's lead.

What's worse is that this brief will be used as fresh ammo from all social conservatives and anti-gay marriage groups. "See? Even Obama doesn't want you to marry." Basically, our President threw gays and lesbians to the wolves. Despite the victories in New England and the heartland, we just got handed a grenade.

So does Obama deserve our anger? This time, oh yes...yes indeed.