It’s three years late, but the White House and the Department of Justice have finally concluded that the misnamed Defense of Marriage Act – which forbids the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal – is unconstitutional and discriminatory. The Attorney General recommended to the President, and President Obama agreed, that the government should not defend the act in court. Perhaps more significantly, they declared an intent to treat discrimination based on sexuality as a cause for “strict scrutiny,” a harsher test than the “rational review” test that had previously been applied.

I leave detailed analysis to legal experts, noting only that Congress may yet intervene on behalf of DOMA, and that the administration has not concluded that DOMA would be unconstitutional under a rational basis review, and would defend the act if courts demand that they defend it on that basis. This doesn’t mean DOMA is dead, but it deals it a crucial blow.

i-366854b2b8230634eefbaede82c8dc8b-MindaLaurenBob.jpgBut I do appreciate the timing. This decision came the Wednesday after my sister-in-law married the woman of her dreams. It was a beautiful ceremony, bringing together wife’s fairly progressive family with the more conservative family of my sister-in-law-in-law. And despite the fact that California doesn’t currently recognize their marriage, that didn’t seem to matter to anyone. It was a wedding, a union of a loving couple and of the couple’s two families. It was beautiful. I was honored to have a chance to help support the chuppah during the ceremony, symbolically holding up their new household, and I was even happier to simply be present for that outpouring of love. And I’m glad that, just as Judge Walker ruled against Proposition 8 mere days before my own wedding last summer, my sister-in-law’s wedding would be followed so immediately by the federal government’s support for marriage equality.

And here’s why I say DOMA is misnamed. Regardless of whether the federal government choses to recognize their marriage, or even whether the state of California does, my new sisters are married, and any attempt to devalue their marriage also devalues mine. At this point, the only legal difference is that the State of New York gave me a piece of paper, while California won’t give them one. And because of that bureaucratic difference, the federal government grants me a thousand or so legal benefits that they don’t get. But our love and our commitment and our moral status is no different. In enacting this law, Congress didn’t defend marriage, it weakened it. And I look forward to the day where the law does not stand between my sister-in-law and her in-laws.
Image: Father of the bride Bob Martin spins my sister-in-law Lauren, his new daughter-in-law, on the dance floor, as his daughter Minda watches happily.


  1. #1 Pubali Batash
    February 24, 2011

    I know Obama has said publicly that he is in support of Gay Marriage, but now there is a youtube clip of him talking about how it’s a sin, and that all Gay people will not be saved:

    This is really good stuff. He has bee two faced about so many issues now. I don’t know why I ever voted for him.

  2. #2 Birger Johansson
    February 24, 2011

    Re. @ 1: The more Obama is revealed as two-faced, the better. Eventually most apologists will fall silent, and he will face some real opposition from Democrats who want to be Democrats instead of Republican-Lite. A politician should strive to be more than an amorphous blob, ruled by polls.

  3. #3 Anthony McCarthy
    February 24, 2011

    Much as I’m glad he did the right thing in this case, it’s overdue. I suspect it’s a bone being thrown to his critics over his many betrayals and deceits. I might have to vote for him to avoid worse from the Republicans but it’s possible he’ll betray himself into being a one-termer anyway. That’s one thing that they can’t blame Jimmy Carter for, he didn’t defeat himself by unnecessary betrayals of his own base.

  4. #4 Mike Silverman
    February 24, 2011

    It’s a good move by Obama, wish it had come sooner, it’s not like this is new legal analysis that was unthinkable a year ago. Still, I am very happy with it.

    Congrats to your sister in law!

  5. #5 Atlanta Roofing
    February 24, 2011

    How is applying the term marriage to gay relationsh­ips insulting to religious people? Marriage may have been a religious term first, but in this country, it is civil aswell, and so long as it remains civil, then gay couples should have equal rights to get married (no, churches should not be forced to marry gay couples). So long as there are Civil Unions for gay couples and Marriages for straight couples, then there will be difference­s, and thus inequality.

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