Grassroots gay activists protesting the
passage of California's gay marriage ban on November 4 turned their
attention Saturday to the federal-level ban.
The federal Defense of Marriage Act,
widely known by its acronym DOMA, is the 12-year-old law that defines
marriage as a union between a man and a woman for federal agencies
and allows states to ignore legal gay marriages performed in another
Former Georgia Representative Bob Barr
(Republican turned Libertarian) authored the legislation and former
President Bill Clinton (Democrat) signed it.
A march in downtown San Diego started
at 10AM at the San Diego County Administration building.
The federal-level protest is a
transformation of sorts for grassroots activists who had remained
focused on the ins and outs of passage of Proposition 8 – the
California constitutional amendment that not only banned gay marriage
but also put a stop to gay wedding celebrations occurring in the
state. Of the 29 constitutional gay marriage bans in America, only
blue California has revoked the right of gay and lesbian couples to
About 18,000 gay couples married in the
Golden State while it was available from June to November.
Proponents of the law have asked the state Supreme Court to nullify
those marriages, while opponents have sought to have the law
Many of Saturday's protesters were
still reeling from that loss.
“I'm deeply offended by people trying
to repeal our being married,” Barbara Keehn, who legally married
her wife, Colleen Hines, in California during the “summer of love,”
told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “It's a slap in the
Protesters in Chicago marched in the
downtown area and called on President-elect Barack Obama to repeal
Obama repeatedly promised during the
presidential campaign that he would work to repeal DOMA, but few gay
activists believe with the economy in a tailspin that this will be a
priority for the new administration.
Bob Barr recently said he favors repeal
of the law. “It truly is time to get the federal government out of
the marriage business,” Barr wrote in an editorial published by the
Los Angeles Times.
Neither man, however, is advocating gay
rights. They both say the law was not needed.
“DOMA was an unnecessary encroachment
by the federal government in an area traditionally reserved for the
state,” Obama told gay weekly Philadelphia Gay News publisher
“If one truly believes in federalism
and the primacy of state government over the federal, DOMA is simply
incompatible with those notions,” Barr wrote.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's
largest gay and lesbian rights advocate, lists repeal of federal DOMA
as a top priority.