President Obama supports the Respect for Marriage Act, or RFMA (H.R. 1116,S. 598) which made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a vote of 10-8 on Thursday. This piece of legislation, which was introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), would, as the White House Blog put it, “uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections as straight couples.”
Section 7 of title 1, United States Code, is amended to read as follows:
”§ 7. Marriage
”(a) For the purposes of any Federal law in which marital status is a factor, an individual shall be considered married if that individual’s marriage is valid in the State where the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and the marriage could have been entered into in a State. ”(b) In this section, the term ‘State’ means a State, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any other territory or possession of the United States.”
It is important to note that the bill would not force states to recognize same-sex marriage but would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and make it possible for the federal government to provide benefits to married same-sex couples.
A White House spokesman immediately voiced Obama’s approval of the bill’s passage out of committee:
“President Obama applauds today’s vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee to approve the Respect for Marriage Act, which would provide a legislative repeal of the so-called “Defense of Marriage Act. The President has long believed that DOMA is discriminatory and has called for its repeal. We should all work towards taking this law off the books. The federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples the same rights and legal protections afforded to straight couples.”
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins and his fellow fundamentalists were somewhat less happy about the prospect that constitutional rights might finally be applied to all equally. He told fellow zealots that if the RFMA passes, “your tax dollars go to pay for the federal benefits and subsidies of gay couples” who are part of ”a small, vocal and already well off special interest group” (apparently not well enough off to have the same rights Tony Perkins enjoys):
Today the Senate Judiciary Committee passed S.598, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) bill that would completely eradicate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the protections it affords taxpayers and the majority of state’s voters who have decided to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
The misnomer medal of the month might have to be awarded early! S.598, the misleadingly titled “Respect for Marriage Act” not only disrespects American’s across the country who want to protect traditional marriage–and have done as much in the 31 states which have passed statewide referendums in favor of marriage–it will also require your tax dollars go to pay for the federal benefits and subsidies of gay couples, irrespective of where they live, who have gotten “married” in 6 states that allow it.
Marriage is not some prize that liberals can award to a small, vocal and already well off special interest group. Marriage between one man and one woman was created prior to the formation of any governments and is given benefits by governments because it uniquely contributes to a productive society. Trying to change the definition to fit some misguided concept can only cause harm to society.
To present DOMA as a bill that protects taxpayers is disingenuous at best. The bill isn’t a protection of taxpayers but a deprivation of rights of a segment of the U.S. population, denying them the rights Tony Perkins and his fellow fundamentalists have enjoyed since the beginning of the nation’s history. Nor is he being honest when he presents his views of marriage as being the same as those of the majority of voters as more and more states come down on the side of Marriage Equality. Polls reflect reality to be somewhat different than Tony Perkins claims.
To complain that tax dollars would subsidize gay couples is an outrage. Currently, tax dollars subsidize heterosexual unions. According to the Constitution everyone is equal before the law, so why doesn’t Tony just come out and say that he finds the Constitution to be a monstrous violation of his beliefs?
To act as though marriage is a prize is equally ridiculous. It is not Democrats who view marriage that way but Perkins and his fellow fundamentalists. Perkins acts as though marriage is a prize that only heterosexuals should be able to enjoy. It’s no different than having Whites Only restaurants. “We can eat here but you can’t” is no different than “we can get married here but you can’t.”
Marriage is simply marriage and according to the Constitution should be permitted to all equally. Marriage was not “created” and certainly not by Christianity or even by Judaism, nor is there any evidence at all throughout history humankind of anything called “traditional” marriage, not even in Perkins’ Bible; nor was it something awarded or permitted by governments. Marriage would exist whether governments existed or not. It is a social institution, not religious and the Religious Right needs to accept that fact and cease pretending unique rights to it.
DOMA was a setback for the United States and will be seen as such when the histories come to be written of the 20th century. Just as the Emancipation Proclamation and the 14th Amendment righted the mistreatment of blacks, just as the 19th Amendment righted the treatment of women, RFMA would belatedly set things to right and permit the United States to become what it was originally intended to be: a land where all are equal before the law, and where no one group or person is better than any other. Tony Perkins is on the wrong side of history and if he persists in standing in front of the cart will likely be trampled underfoot with the rest of his fellow living anachronisms. It is something I look forward to watching.