Martin Cothran, friend to bigotry of all kinds, wonders “Has the Obama admininstration [sic] endorsed Big Love?”
He is reacting to the Obama administration’s decision not to defend section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, and to Francis Beckwith’s erroneous comments on that decision.
Before delving into the argument, a few basic facts. DOMA was passed in 1996, and polygamy was illegal without section 3 of DOMA. Striking down DOMA’s section 3 will not change the status of polygamy laws, because marriage laws have generally been a state matter, not a federal matter, and because anti-polygamy laws had been part of federal law since 1882 and are not being challenged. DOMA was unusual in that it imposed a federal standard on marriages, rather than letting states determine their own marriage laws. Striking down DOMA would not change a state’s right to set it’s marriage laws one way or another, including restrictions on plural marriage. (Bizarrely, Beckwith claims that striking down DOMA – a federal law limiting state decisions to recognize same-sex marriage – would mean “bypassing the state law-making bodies that the Constitution empowers to deal with such issues.” This is 180º from the truth.)
Furthermore, the particulars of the policy announced was in response to two court cases, court cases specifically having to do with same sex marriages in states where such marriages may be legally performed, but where such legal and valid marriages are not recognized by the federal government because of DOMA’s section 3. Indeed, the first sentence of Attorney General Holder’s letter announcing the policy makes clear that the administration is has decided not to defend DOMA “as applied to same-sex couples who are legally married under state law, [because it] violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment.” The administration concluded that legal distinctions based on sexuality, as with legal distinctions based on race or gender, deserved heightened scrutiny by the courts. Therefore, AG Holder explains in the 3rd paragraph: “the President and I have concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation warrant heightened scrutiny and that, as applied to same-sex couples legally married under state law, Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.”
Why do I emphasize “as applied to same-sex couples” in both of quotations above? Because Beckwith’s argument, which Cothran unthinkingly regurgitates, is premised on the notion that the administration determined: “the entirety of sec. 3 violates the 5th amendment and thus does not withstand heightened scrutiny.”
They determined that section 3 as applied to same-sex couples violates the 5th amendment. They restricted the scope of their evaluation of the law’s constitutionality to the issue of sexuality and to the gender composition of couples. To conclude that they accidentally opened the door to plural marriage despite having specified that the decision only applies to same-sex couples defies logic.
Cothran, a professional logic teacher, nonetheless insists that his trivially false claims are “logical implications” of the letter. Neither he nor Beckwith links to or quotes from the letter, and neither seems to have actually examined the document.