Let The DOMA Scare Tactics Begin

By now you have probably heard that Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders has filed suit on behalf a several legally married gay couples in Massachusetts who are challenging Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act which denies them a range of federal benefits that other married couples receive, such as pensions, health insurance, and the ability to file joint tax returns.

As GLAD explains it:

When people marry, as over 10,000 same-sex couples have now done in Massachusetts since 2004, and as couples have been doing in Connecticut since November 2008, they take on legal responsibilities for one another and their families.

The federal government does not license marriages – only states do – but many federal programs take state-granted marital status into account in determining eligibility and the extent of coverage. Due to this unprecedented law, the federal government denies rights, protections and responsibilities to married couples of the same sex in every federal program that takes account of marital status. There are at least 1,138 federal laws in which marital status is a factor according to government studies conducted in 1997 and 2004.

Strangely, despite the fact that this news has been circulating for several hours now, none of the right-wing political or legal groups has weighed in, with the exception of the Alliance Defense Fund which, predictably, decries this effort as an attempt to “redefine marriage for everyone“:

A lawsuit filed by a handful of same-sex couples represented by a homosexual activist group is seeking to have a judge redefine marriage for the entire country, according to attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund. The lawsuit asks a federal judge to declare portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, unconstitutional.

“Public policy should be decided by the public, not by one judge and a very small number of radical activists,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Brian Raum. “America continues to overwhelmingly reaffirm that marriage is one man and one woman. Does the democratic process mean anything anymore?”

Of course, this is patently false, as GLAD clearly explained:

If a non-resident couple were married in Massachusetts or Connecticut and their home state did not recognize their marriage, then, as a general matter, a favorable result in this case will not allow them to seek federal legal protections … This case is only about the relationship between the federal government and a class of people who are married by their states … This lawsuit has no impact on any state’s marriage licensing or recognition laws – whether those laws allow same-sex couples to marry or not.

This is not a case seeking a federal constitutional right to marry that would override any state’s marriage law or amendment.

In short, if DOMA Section 3 is declared unconstitutional in GLAD’s lawsuit, no state would, as a result, be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and no state would be required to recognize and respect a Massachusetts marriage of a same-sex couple.

Since the ADF’s “gays are out to destroy marriage” claim is obviously without merit, it seems the only tactic they have left is to trot out the “won’t somebody think of the children” lament which, of course, is exactly what they have done:

“They do not care about the negative social impact on children if federal judges redefine marriage. Courts should never impose a system which guarantees that more kids will be brought up in homes without a married mom and dad. How can we justify hurting millions of children for the possible emotional benefit of a very small number of adults?”

It’s still early in the process, but I suspect that this will be the Right’s preferred response to this suit: lying about what it seeks and hyperventilating that recognizing these legally valid marriages will cause incalculable harm to the nation’s children.