Republican Representative Trent Franks
on Friday led a House subcommittee on President Barack Obama's
decision to no longer defend in court the Defense of Marriage Act
(DOMA), the Clinton-era law that bans federal recognition of the
marriages of gay and lesbian couples.
Franks, the chairman of the House
Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, who earlier said the
president's gay marriage decision could be an impeachable offense,
revealed in his opening statement the true nature of the ambiguously
named Defending Marriage hearing.
Franks said the hearing was to discuss
Obama's February 23 decision to no longer defend DOMA in court.
The 10-member panel includes some of
Congress' most virulent opponents of gay rights, including
Representatives Steve King of Iowa and Jim Jordan of Ohio. But when
all 5 of his Republican colleagues failed to appear, Franks found
himself in the minority.
Democrats on the panel came out in
defense of the president and against the law.
“Let's be clear: DOMA isn't just an
unconstitutional law, it's dumb public policy,” Illinois
Representative Mike Quigley said. “Every one of the stated
rationales for DOMA has been refuted by our better judgment or our
shared experiences. … There's nothing radical about being allowed
to marry the person you hold closest in your heart. And there's
nothing radical about expecting that union to receive the full
protection of the law.”
New York Representative Jerrold Nadler,
lead sponsor in the House of a bill that would repeal DOMA,
reiterated his call for the law's end.
“Rather than defending DOMA in court,
Congress should be working to repeal it,” Nadler said.
“Far from demeaning, trivializing, or
destroying the institution of marriage, lesbian and gay couples have
embraced this time-honored tradition and the commitment and serious
legal duties of marriage. The exclusion of any married couples from
programs like Social Security defies logic. The fact that DOMA
carves out an entire class of married citizens based on sexual
orientation also violates constitutional equal protection
The panel heard testimony from three
witnesses: Maggie Gallagher, the chair of the anti-gay marriage group
National Organization for Marriage (NOM), Edward Whelan, president of
the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a critic of the
administration's defense of DOMA in court, and Carlos Ball, an openly
gay law professor at Rutgers Law School.
“If, in fact, marriage, as a public
and legal institution,” Gallagher testified, “is oriented towards
protecting children by increasing the likelihood they have a mother
and father, then same-sex couples do not fit, and conversely, if
same-sex couples fit the definition of marriage then marriage really
is no longer about responsible procreation in the sense.”
Whelan argued that the administration
had purposefully sabotaged its defense of the law.
“As I document in detail in my
testimony, I think one would have to be very naïve to think that
it's anything than a stealth strategy of step by step by step, the
administration is doing whatever it can to promote same-sex marriage
and to induce the courts to adopt that approach.”
“The department has only been
pretending to defend DOMA while it has been, in fact, actively
sabotaging it,” he added. (Video of several portions of the
hearing is embedded in the right hand panel of this page.)