Bob Barr, the author of the federal
Defense of Marriage Act, now believes it's time for the law to be
Writing at the Los Angeles Times,
Barr said that he agreed with President-elect Barack Obama's pledge
to repeal the 12-year-old anti-gay law.
“It truly is time to get the federal
government out of the marriage business,” Barr wrote.
Barr was a freshmen member of the House
of Representatives from Georgia in 1996 when he wrote the law that
forbids any federal agency from recognizing legal gay marriage. The
law also allows states to ignore legal gay marriages performed in
Then-President Bill Clinton signed the
bill into law.
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 the ruling and
by 1998 the state had passed the first-ever gay marriage ban
amendment in the United States, essentially overruling the court's
While Obama does not support gay
marriage, he has said he believes in repeal of the federal DOMA and
granting gay couples marriage-like benefits through civil unions.
But Barr is not advocating for gay
rights, he's merely reasoning
his federalist ideology to its logical conclusion.
Barr explains that DOMA was crafted out
of the federalist principle of states' right to self determination.
It protects the power of each state to determine its definition of
But, Barr argues, DOMA has run afoul of
the principle because it only protects those states that don't want
to accept gay marriages recognized by another state. It is “one-way
federalism,” he says. Furthermore, the law punishes those states
that do choose to grant marriages or civil unions to gay couples by
invalidating those unions on the federal level.
“[T]he heterosexual definition of
marriage for purposes of federal laws – including, immigration,
Social Security survivor rights and veteran's benefits – has become
a de facto club used to limit, if not thwart, the ability of a state
to choose to recognize same-sex unions.”
“Even more so now than in 1996, I
believe we need to reduce federal power over the lives of the
citizenry and over the prerogatives of the states,” Barr says. “If
one truly believes in federalism and the primacy of state government
over the federal, DOMA is simply incompatible with those notions.”
Supporters of the law, however, have
pledged to protect it. The Alliance for Marriage Foundation, the
group that drafted the Marriage Protection Amendment (MPA) in
Congress, unveiled a new website at www.ProtectDOMA.org
last month and have called on Obama to “stand with the vast
majority of Americans who believe marriage is between a man and a
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's
largest gay and lesbian rights organization, lists repeal of federal
DOMA as a top priority.