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Friday, March 7, 1997

Marriage, Once

by Clinton Fein

No State, territory, or possession of the United States , or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship.

And so it came to pass that the Defense of Marriage Act was introduced in the United States House of Representatives (H.R. 3396) by Representatives Bob Barr (R-GA) and Steve Largent (R-OK) and in the United States Senate (S. 1740) by Senator Don Nickles (R-OK). Soon after, in the dead of night as if to hide his deed, Bill Clinton signed it. First off, if nothing else, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. The "full faith and credit" clause of the Constitution, by which states are bound, was implemented to ensure that the laws of one state were respected in another. In essence, all Judgments, including marriage and divorce, must be accorded full faith and credit from one state to the next. Secondly, the First Amendment states very clearly that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." When Judeo-Christian values determine legal definitions, the very notion of religious freedom is violated.

There is a delicious irony here. If, as the name suggests, marriage needs to be defended, the question arises as to who and what it is that threatens it. To begin with, Robert Barr who wrote the Act, definitely supports the notion of marriage. He's been married three times. He must have confused "till death do us part" with "till divorce do us part." Newt Gingrich on the other hand, didn't regard divorce with quite the same sanctity as he claims to place on marriage. "Sorry about the cancer darling, but about that divorce" delivered to his wife in a hospital doesn't quite capture the "in sickness and in health" line of the sacred marriage vows he swore to uphold.

But the issue is not about how we treat the spouses we marry, nor is it about marriage simply serving the purpose of procreation as has been posited by many a politician. If that were the case, Bob Dole wouldn't have been quite so quick as to invalidate his bedless marriage to Elizabeth. And Bill Clinton wouldn't have justified his signing the Act to strengthen the family if it meant no more blow jobs in Arkansas hotel rooms. Or confusing giving flowers with [having sex with] Flowers.

The protection of our children was piously expressed on the floor of Congress. Conveniently omitting that homosexuals have children, and are as interested in protecting the rights of their children as heterosexuals are. Parents of children who are lesbian or gay have every right to ensure that those children are protected too. if we're protecting children, we don't only protect some children, we protect all children. The Defense of Marriage Act is nothing short of treacherous to the well being of children.

California Judge Nancy Brown ensured that Lyle Menendez married Anna Erikson, murder convictions aside, and no one seemed to question it. Is this the Defense of Marriage everyone is making such a fuss over? Queers will destroy the institution, and we need to protect it from them, but killing parents strengthens the family, and convicted murderers will respect the sanctity of this blessed institution.

Since the crime of sodomy was also thrown into the mix, it should be mentioned that same gender marriage is not simply about sex. It's about the recognition and associated responsibilities, benefits and rewards for maintaining or attempting to achieve a loyal, mutually respectful commitment to a partner and ideally to love, honor and cherish till death or divorce do them part. The sex part is coincidental.

If all couples, regardless of gender, don't achieve the basic rights afforded their heterosexual counterparts, then at the very least, tax reductions would be in order since it is legally, socially and economically unjust for homosexuals to foot the bill for rights and benefits they are denied.

The all too familiar shrieks of how same-sex marriages will erode the institution of marriage suggest an inability on the part of these heterosexuals to manage the institution they are laying claim to. If the proponent of the Defense of Marriage Act were truly committed to protecting and defending the institution, their new federal definition would have read: "In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, ONCE."


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