DOMA On Life Support

Andrew Sullivan —  May 31 2012 @ 12:17pm

Here’s the critical passage from the First Circuit Appeals Court’s ruling:

[M]any Americans believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and most Americans live in states where that is the law today. One virtue of federalism is that it permits this diversity of governance based on local choice, but this applies as well to the states that have chosen to legalize same-sex marriage. Under current Supreme Court authority, Congress’ denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest.

It strikes me as completely obvious. If you believe in states’ rights, as Republicans claim to, then the federal government has no business deciding to recognize most of the civil marriage licenses in one state, but not all of them. The state itself makes no such distinction. My civil marriage license in Massachusetts is indistinguishable in every way from all the heterosexual civil marriage licenses in Massachusetts. And yet the feds choose not to recognize mine, but to recognize the others. They have no right to trample on the freedom of states to arrange their marriage laws as they see fit – whether by outlawing gay marriage or allowing it. During the long period of miscegenation bans, for example, the federal government recognized such bans in those states where they existed, but also recognized miscegenated marriages in those states which had non-racist marital laws.

If you believe in federalism, DOMA must go. But the GOP only believes in federalism when it allows for reactionary states to do as they will against minorities, not for conservative ones, seeking to encourage responsibility among all its citizens.