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Fred Silberberg

Fred Silberberg

Posted: March 9, 2011 03:40 PM

Our Priorities Should Not Include the Defense of DOMA


This week, Speaker of the House John Boehner is convening his committee intending to represent the government in court in defense of the various pending legal challenges to what is commonly referred to as "DOMA", or the "Defense of Marriage Act". Because of DOMA, the Federal Government does not recognize same-sex marriages. Because of DOMA, marriages that legally take place in one state, do not get automatic recognition in other states where same-sex marriage is prohibited. The legislation, implemented at the Federal level, gives legitimacy to state-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians. Spouses of gay Federal employees are not entitled to the same benefits as spouses of straight Federal employees. Legally married gay couples are not entitled to the same tax treatment as legally married heterosexual couples. In fact, in those states where same-sex marriage is legal, parties to such marriages may file joint state income tax returns, but may not file joint Federal income tax returns. These are but a few examples of governmentally imposed discrimination against gay citizens of our country. At the same time, gay citizens are expected to pay our fair share of taxes, despite not receiving the same benefits as everyone else.

It seemed that change might finally be in the air. The absurdity of this legislation and the policies that result from it, coupled with the clear view that DOMA would likely not pass constitutional muster, is the reason that President Obama finally instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending DOMA in several law suits that are now making their way through the court system, and which will likely end up in the hands of the United States Supreme Court. Similar to the positions taken by the California Attorney General in refusing to defend Proposition 8 in the court challenges now facing it, these elected officials recognized that these laws are discriminatory, that they foster state-sanctioned discrimination, and that there was no legitimate governmental purpose in attempting to defend them in court, as they would not pass constitutional muster. It should be noted that these policy moves by the administration are not akin to instructing the government not to enforce the law. The law is continuing to be enforced until it is repealed or overturned by the courts. What the administration is doing is saying to the courts that the government itself does not believe that there is a rational basis for keeping the law in effect, and that therefore, the government is not taking the position of defending the law.

This country, and our people, are faced with many difficult issues. There are not enough jobs to keep our workforce employed. Our state and city governments are collapsing around us for lack of funding to provide needed services. The price of gas has escalated dramatically in the past few weeks, wreaking further financial hardship on many Americans and stalling what little of an economic recovery may actually have ensued. The housing market remains decimated, while foreclosures continue at record numbers. Our schools do not have sufficient funding to properly educate our children. And in the face of all of this, I, for one, am outraged that Speaker Boehner has decided that his priority, and that of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, is to spend its time and resources defending DOMA, rather than addressing the real issues facing all of us.

As an American citizen and a taxpayer, I resent that my tax dollars are being spent by the government on attempting to further discrimination against many American citizens, including myself. Abraham Lincoln described our government as one that is "a government of the people, by the people, and for the people." Apparently, Boehner does not believe that. If he did, he would be spending his time and resources (which I am, in part, paying for) addressing the problems that affect our country as a whole, and not using his position to try to keep the government in the business of discriminating against a minority portion of its own populace.