Anti-gay rights groups alarmed at the
election of a gay-affirming president are staging preemptive attacks
on the pro-gay positions of the upcoming Barack Obama administration.
One such group, the Alliance for
Marriage Foundation (AMF), the organization that drafted the Marriage
Protection Amendment (MPA) in Congress, is working against any
attempt to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The conservative group Concerned Women
for America (CWA) objects to several progressive Obama ideologies at
Obama Watch, but four out of six of their concerns are gay related.
Both groups list defending DOMA from
repeal as a priority.
At the AMF sponsored website
and information about the law that forbids any federal agency from
recognizing legal marriage can be found. The law also allows states
to ignore legal gay marriages performed in another state.
The legislation was authored by
then-Republican Georgia Representative Bob Barr and signed into law
by then-President Bill Clinton in 1996. Proponents argued that
without the legislation gay activists would win the right to marry in
a single state and foist it upon the rest of the nation. In the
mid-1990's such a state was Hawaii. In 1993, the Hawaii Supreme
Court ruled in Baehr v. Lewin that it was unconstitutional to
refuse gay couples the right to marry. However, the court stayed
their ruling and by 1998 the state had passed the first-ever gay
marriage ban amendment in the United States, essentially overruling
the court's decision.
“The repeal of DOMA is the
legislative Holy Grail for activists who want to impose their radical
social agenda upon America through the courts,” said Rev. Sam
Rodriguez, Jr., an AFM Advisory Board member and president of the
National Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) in a statement
announcing the new website.
President-elect Obama promised during
the 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 administration.
During the presidential campaign, Obama
discussed how he would prefer to handle the repeal of the federal
DOMA with gay weekly Philadelphia Gay News publisher Mark
Segal, who asked if he would back a lawsuit to unseat the anti-gay
“I would want to review carefully any
lawsuit that was filed,” Obama answered. “This is probably my
carryover from being a constitutional lawyer. Here's where I can
tell you [what] my principle is: DOMA was an unnecessary encroachment
by the federal government in an area traditionally reserved for the
state. I think that it was primarily sent as a message to score
political points instead of work through these difficult issues. I
recognize why it was done. I'm sympathetic to the political
pressures involved, but I think that we need to bring it to a close
and my preference would be to work through a legislative solution. I
would also point out that if it's going before this court, I'm not
sure what chances it would have to be overturned. I think we're
going to have to take a different approach, but I am absolutely
committed to the concept it is not necessary.”
But while DOMA might be the last item
on the president-elect's to-do list, legislation aimed at protecting
gays and lesbians is likely to be at the top.
Openly lesbian Wisconsin Representative
Tammy Baldwin recently pegged the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act as
the likely first GLBT legislative effort of the new Congress. The
bill has previously passed both houses of Congress, but faced a
threatened presidential veto from George Bush. Obama, however, has
pledged his support for the bill.
Hate crimes legislation and protections
for GLBT persons from discrimination in housing, public
accommodations, and employment are decried as “special rights” on
the Obama Watch website.
Social conservatives also worry about
the future of “don't ask, don't tell,” the military's policy that
bars gays and lesbians from serving openly. They argue that without
the policy combat effectiveness would be destroyed by a heightened
President-elect Barack Obama has
already signaled he would not take up the issue early on in his
administration, but continues to express support for ending the
military's gay ban on his transition website.
Obama told gay weekly Philadelphia
Gay News that he would repeal the military's gay ban only after
building consensus on the issue.
“I want to make sure that when we
reverse “don't ask, don't tell” it's gone through a process and
we've built a consensus or at least a clarity of what my
expectations are so that it works. My first obligation as the
president is to make sure that I keep the American people safe and
that our military is functioning effectively,” Obama said in
September. “Although I have consistently said I would repeal
“don't ask, don't tell', I believe that the way to do it is make
sure that we are working through a process, getting the Joint Chiefs
of Staff clear in terms of what our priorities are going to be.”
Obama compared his consensus-building
approach to ending the gay ban to earlier efforts to integrate female
“That's how we were able to integrate
the armed services to get women more actively involved in the armed
services,” Obama said.
The upcoming 111th Congress'
political ideology will differ greatly from the 85% majority that
ratified federal DOMA or instituted “don't ask, don't tell,”
setting the stage for possible repeal of both.
Opponents of gay rights, however, argue
that the passage of three constitutional gay marriage bans on
Election Day – in California, Arizona and Florida – gives them
the political capital needed to keep gay prohibitions in effect.
“The new Congress gives
President-elect Barack Obama the legislative numbers he needs to
overturn DOMA,” said Rodriguez. “But will Congress follow his
agenda or stand with the vast majority of Americans who believe
marriage is between a man and a woman.”
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's
largest gay and lesbian rights organization, lists repeal of federal
DOMA and “don't ask, don't tell” as top priorities.