The legalization of same sex marriage in New York raises serious questions about the future viability of the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996 and defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. The law also protects states from having to recognize same-sex unions from another state. In theory DOMA presents an impediment to gay activists using New York’s same-sex marriage legislation to challenge laws in other states. However, the deep-seated desire among gay activists to capitalize on the momentum gained this week is causing renewed concerns that DOMA is under threat.
Indeed, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, has been on the forefront of those attempting to repeal DOMA. Gillibrand has co-sponsored the Respect for Marriage Act, which seeks to repeal DOMA. She also joined with Democracy for America to launch a national online campaign to rally support for the cause. According to Senator Gillibrand, “The reality is that the Defense of Marriage Act prevents all legally married same-sex couples in the U.S. from receiving over 1,000 federal rights and privileges that straight married couples enjoy. We must repeal this unjust law.”
Of more concern to supporters of traditional marriage are the thirty states which currently have constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage. If DOMA is repealed these states could potentially face future federal legislation mandating the recognition of same-sex marriages.
The threat to DOMA was clearly evidenced in February when President Obama said he would “no longer assert its (DOMA) constitutionality in court.” This was little more than a direct invitation to activists to challenge the law in court. Last year, a federal judge in Massachusetts found much of the law unconstitutional, and this month more than a dozen federal bankruptcy judges in California jointly ruled that a key section of DOMA was unconstitutional. In March Democrats in both houses of Congress put forward measures to repeal the law.
How did we get to this point in our society? Just 15 years ago a liberal Democratic president signed DOMA into law with wide support from both parties and the American people. Today six states have legalized same-sex marriage and DOMA is in jeopardy.
Joe Carter, writing for First Things, explains how ideas once thought unthinkable gradually gain acceptance and eventually become policy. I highly recommend this fascinating but sobering article “How to Destroy a Culture in 5 Easy Steps.” Perhaps, the approval of same-sex marriage in New York, and the looming repeal of DOMA, will serve as a necessary wake up call. As Carter writes:
"America has produced an overwhelming number of Christians who are adept at explaining why they can support issues that are antithetical to Christianity and depressingly few who can give reasons why we should adhere to the teachings of scripture and the wisdom of the church. History has shown that dedicated Christians can…reverse the shift from “policy” to “unthinkable.” But it requires a people who have courage and conviction and a willingness to be despised for the truth. Do current generations have such virtues? Probably not. But I’m holding out hope that our grandkids will be born that way.”