Gay rights, same sex marriage cause political strife in U.S.

10:19, March 15, 2011      

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by Mark Weisenmiller

The topics of gay rights and same sex marriage are developing into social issues fiercely debated by conservatives and liberals in the United States in the opening months of 2011.

Ten days after U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner (R.-Ohio) told reporters that he will call for a bipartisan committee of attorneys to find legal ways to maintain the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law which defines marriage as the legal union between a man and a woman, the Speaker now finds himself defending his theories on the topics to fellow members of the Republican Party.

The Log Cabin Republicans, a pro-gay rights and same sex marriage organization based in Washington D.C., are voicing their objections to Boehner's March 4 statement.

"Gay and lesbian Americans are fighting for the ability to protect our families, and for our rights and dignity as American citizens," noted Casey Pick, Staff Attorney and Programs Director for the Log Cabin Republicans. "Particularly in a difficult economy, the rights and responsibilities that we are denied under current law make a significant difference in people's everyday lives."

The "current law" that Pick is referring to is DOMA, which was signed into federal law in September 1996 by then president Bill Clinton. It was written by former U.S. representative Bob Barr (R.- Georgia).

The recent event which brought the subjects of same sex marriage and gay rights again to the forefront of U.S. political and social chatter was a Feb. 23 letter that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sent to the U.S. Congress on the topics of litigation affiliated with DOMA. The theme of the letter, which was addressed to Speaker Boehner, was made clear in its first sentence:

"After careful consideration, including review of a recommendation from me, the President of the United States has made the determination that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act ... as compared to same-sex couples who are legally married under state law, violates the equal protection component of the (U. S. Constitution's) Fifth Amendment."

Section 3 of DOMA is the part of the law that specifically discusses the federal law definition of marriage being a conjunction between a man and a woman.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement on the same day of Holder's declaration, which read: "Since its inception, the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act has long been viewed as a violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Today, the President made clear that he agrees."

Reaction to Attorney General Holder's announcement from conservative anti-gay rights and same sex marriage groups was swift and direct.

"There are no good points to the announcement (by Holder)," declared Bryan Fischer, Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association (AFA) which is headquartered in Tupelo, Mississippi. "It is a shameful dereliction of duty, and, on the part of the President, a violation of his oath of office and his constitutional responsibility to 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed.'"

Fischer's last remarks refer to a clause in the address formally taken by U.S. Presidents when they are inaugurated.

Membership in the AFA is heavily populated by devout conservative Christians, and the debate between liberal pro-gay rights and same sex marriage proponents, and conservative pious Christians, is not confined solely to the United States.

On March 5, Australia's 34th annual Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade was held in Sydney. Over 300,000 people gathered to witness the parade, which is one of the larger gay and lesbian themed parades in the world. On the same day, in another section of Sydney, Christians who opposed the parade held a rally.

Other countries which have had such public showdowns between the two conflicting groups include Italy and Spain.

Pick told Xinhua that "Log Cabin Republicans believe that the Department of Justice to no longer defend the (DOMA) law is rooted in political calculus rather than political courage. It is the role of the courts to decide DOMA's constitutionality, not unilateral action by the President."

Pick's response indicates that Log Cabin Republicans believe that President Barack Obama is thus agreeing with Attorney General Holder's Feb. 23 statement for the primary purpose of procuring as many votes as possible from the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities for the 2012 presidential election.

Fischer explained another theory about the matter which the AFA thinks will happen regarding DOMA.

"There is no question that, given the importance of this issue for the nation's public policy, it (the legality of DOMA) will be heard by the (U.S.) Supreme Court ... the mere fact that this issue is in court at all is a defeat for the American model of government, which is rooted in self-governance and the right of states under the 10th Amendment to establish marriage and family policy for themselves. DOMA insulates that right, by insulating states from being forced to recognize same-sex marriages formed in other states," said Fischer.

One of the cases that directly challenged the legality of Section 3 of DOMA is Windsor v. the United States. Filed in the U. S. District court for the Southern District of New York, it explained the story of Edith S. Windsor, the 81-year-old widow of Thea C. Spyer.

The two women were married in Toronto, Canada in 2007. Windsor and Spyer were thus a same-sex married couple living in New York, which is one of the few states that legally recognizes same-sex marriages for its citizens if they take place in another country.

When Spyer died, the elderly Windsor received a bill from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for 360,000 dollars, due for federal taxes on Windsor's inheritance on Spyer's estate.

As the IRS is a federal agency, and must therefore operate under federal law jurisdiction, the IRS did not legally recognize Spyer and Windsor's same-sex marriage. The Feb. 23 statement from Attorney General Holder means that the U.S. Department of Justice will be filing a legal motion that the Windsor v. the United States case be dismissed.

Source: Xinhua

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