When President Obama came out last week in favor of redefining marriage, he couched his opinion in the context of federalism, saying, “I think it is a mistake to — try to make what has traditionally been a state issue into a national issue.” During that same interview, however, he declared that a bipartisan law designed to protect states from judges who redefine marriage in other states, is “unconstitutional.” It’s very hard to square these two statements.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was passed with greater than 80 percent majorities in both the House and Senate and signed into law by President Clinton. It was designed to protect states from rogue rulings by other states’ judges, a few of whom had “found” a right to gay marriage hidden in their state constitutions. DOMA defines the use of the word “marriage” in all federal laws or regulations as referring to a union between a husband and wife, and it shields states from having to comply with other states’ — or their judges’ — contrary definitions. In other words, at least at the state level, DOMA leaves this issue up to the states.
In his interview, however, Obama said, “Well, I — you know, my Justice Department has already — said that it is not gonna defend — the Defense Against [sic] Marriage Act; that we consider that a violation of [the] equal protection clause. And I agree with them on that.” Making sure to take credit, he added, “You know? I helped to prompt that — that move on the part of the Justice Department.”
In other words, when Obama says (as he did in his interview) that “the winds of change” are not “blowin’ — with the same force in every state,” but “I think that what you’re gonna see is — is — is states — coming to — the realization that” marriage must be redefined, what he really means is that states will come to that “realization” once judges force them to do so. At that point, the 31 states whose citizens have already passed constitutional amendments to preserve the definition of marriage — compared to zero whose citizens have voted the other way — will have marriage redefined for them.
This has already happened in California, where (federal) judges have declared the will of the people, expressed in the passage of a state constitutional amendment, to be unconstitutional. Yes, even in California, the citizenry has voted against redefining marriage — and did so on the same day it voted for Obama.
Obama has now aligned himself with the judges who want to take this issue out of the states’ hands, while he disingenuously poses as a defender of federalism. The Romney campaign should call him out on this while emphasizing the even larger point: This is yet another example of Obama trusting in the will of the elite few over the wisdom of the American people.