Monday, August 17, 2009

Is Marriage a Federal or State Issue?

Recently, the Obama administration said that the Defense of Marriage Act (1996) is unfair. It's startling to look at just how this "conservative" law affects state rights over the definition of marriage.

Most people know that the DOMA limits the federal definition of marriage to "a legal union exclusively between one man and one woman." What this does is allow the government to deny any benefits of marriage to gay couples, even if they are married by their state. So even in states that decide to allow gay marriage, their gay couples cannot claim social security benefits of their spouse, file joint taxes, ect.

It seems a huge conflict that states can be allowed to selectively perform and recognize marriage (as if it were a state right) but then the federal government can turn a blind eye to some of those marriages created by the states. The DOMA effectively makes the federal government the final authority when it comes to marriage. You know something is wrong when a conservative law actually increases federal power.

It will be very interesting to see what Obama does next about DOMA. Although he has a lot of liberal supporters, Obama usually backs down on issues that would lose him a majority of popular support. Gay marriage and anything attached to it are one of the touchiest subjects in America. With Obama's approval ratings sinking towards 50%, what can he do here to maintain popular support? To remove all federal restrictions on marriage and allow each state full authority on the issue would be the truly conservative way of dealing with it.

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