New York Times Editorial: A Bad Call on Gay Rights

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Every so often, the stench of decay clears from 43rd Street and the once mighty New York Times gets it right. Today is one of those days.

The Times editorial titled A Bad Call on Gay Rights absolutely eviscerates the Obama administration for defending the homophobic, Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to not recognize same-sex marriages and denies same-sex married couples Federal benefits such as Social Security.

I will post it in its entirety:

The Obama administration, which came to office promising to protect gay rights but so far has not done much, actually struck a blow for the other side last week. It submitted a disturbing brief in support of the Defense of Marriage Act, which is the law that protects the right of states to not recognize same-sex marriages and denies same-sex married couples federal benefits. The administration needs a new direction on gay rights.

A gay couple married under California law is challenging the act in federal court. In its brief, the Justice Department argues that the couple lack legal standing to do so. It goes on to contend that even if they have standing, the case should be dismissed on the merits.

The brief insists it is reasonable for states to favor heterosexual marriages because they are the “traditional and universally recognized form of marriage.” In arguing that other states do not have to recognize same-sex marriages under the Constitution’s “full faith and credit” clause, the Justice Department cites decades-old cases ruling that states do not have to recognize marriages between cousins or an uncle and a niece.

These are comparisons that understandably rankle many gay people. In a letter to President Obama on Monday, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization, said, “I cannot overstate the pain that we feel as human beings and as families when we read an argument, presented in federal court, implying that our own marriages have no more constitutional standing than incestuous ones.”

The brief also maintains that the Defense of Marriage Act represents a “cautious policy of federal neutrality” — an odd assertion since the law clearly discriminates against gay couples. Under the act, same-sex married couples who pay their taxes are ineligible for the sort of federal benefits — such as Social Security survivors’ payments and joint tax returns — that heterosexual married couples receive.

In the presidential campaign, President Obama declared that he would work to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. Now, the administration appears to be defending it out of a sense of obligation to support a validly enacted Congressional law. There is a strong presumption that the Justice Department will defend federal laws, but it is not an inviolable rule.

If the administration does feel compelled to defend the act, it should do so in a less hurtful way. It could have crafted its legal arguments in general terms, as a simple description of where it believes the law now stands. There was no need to resort to specious arguments and inflammatory language to impugn same-sex marriage as an institution.

The best approach of all would have been to make clear, even as it defends the law in court, that it is fighting for gay rights. It should work to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the law that bans gay men and lesbians in the military from being open about their sexuality. It should push hard for a federal law banning employment discrimination. It should also work to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act in Congress.

The administration has had its hands full with the financial crisis, health care, Guantánamo Bay and other pressing matters. In times like these, issues like repealing the marriage act can seem like a distraction — or a political liability. But busy calendars and political expediency are no excuse for making one group of Americans wait any longer for equal rights.

Kudos to the New York Times for nailing the Obama administration for their cowardice.

This entry was posted in DOMA, Gay Marriage, Homophobes, LGBT, Politics, President Barack Obama and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to New York Times Editorial: A Bad Call on Gay Rights

  1. Adirondacky says:

    I saw Bill Maher on Keith’s show last night. He said the first criticized Obama for something like back in February or March, his booed. Last Friday night, when he suggested Obama needed to sand up to the energy and insurance companies, and said he needed some “George Bush in him,” his audience didn’t boo — they applauded. This is not good for a president less than 6 months in office.

  2. Rachel says:

    Excellent op-ed. Obama is getting from all sides now and this is as it should be. His inner circle is intact but the chorus of critics is growing as people are becoming less enchanted by the vapid speeches.

  3. bradfrmphnx says:

    I’d say the Times hit the nail on the head with this one. Obama is getting a lot of pressure. Look for the GOP to maybe jump on this bandwagon. They could start to make a bunch of empty promises to garner votes for 2010.

  4. Prairiedog says:

    Obama is running in place right now and I don’t see much difference from either Bill Clinton or even George Bush.

    It’s a sad day when Cheney is more LGBT friendly than a Democratic president when it comes to gay marriage.

    Obama needs to get his act together fast or the very people who got him elected will start to turn on him.

  5. rckweho1981 says:

    When a large, mainstream newspaper like the New York Times with its reputation for leaning to the left comes out so forcefully and admonishes Obama, it isn’t good and foretells just more problems for the fledgling administration.

  6. The bottom line is this: Obama supports gay marriage, and all the other issues that the GLBT community supports. However, he must be careful in how he goes about this. I say judge Obama and the Dems by how much they get done by the end of the 2009-2010 session. My prediction- they will have passed the ENDA and the Matthew Shephard Act. That’s pretty good for two years not to mention many judical nominations as well.

  7. bradfrmphnx says:

    “The bottom line is this: Obama supports gay marriage, and all the other issues that the GLBT community supports.”

    With all due respect, I don’t know how you can say that when he recently supported DOMA, and sends others to do his talking for him. I don’t think anyone who is for equality in America isn’t hoping that he supports these issues. Its just that he seems to be saying one thing and doing another if it gains him political capital. DADT should be the first thing he deals with. That one is ready to go down the road. Why are we about the only civilised country that disallows gays to openly serve in the Armed Forces? Its okay for a gay person to lay his life down for this country…as long as he doesn’t mention his sexuality?? Obama confuses me with his wishy washy ways on gay rights.

  8. JollyRoger says:

    I don’t understand why this professor of Constitutional law doesn’t come right out and say it; the Constitution as written simply does not allow discrimination against people who are in same-sex relationships.

    This is a religion-based prejudice, and our Constitution demands a separation of church and state. It is time for Government to get out of the business of defining marriage entirely; let people sign whatever social contracts they choose to sign, and call it whatever the hell you want to call it.

  9. Fran says:

    The “reasoning” for this reminds me of the media claiming their free speech would be violated if they were forced to allow then Presidential Candidate Kucinich to participate in televised debates.

    Flipping the intent of the law. Suddenly Free Speech meant their freedom to censor an official presidential candidate from participating in a debate & that would be freedom of the press.

    Same thing here– they must protect the Defense of Marriage Act, NOT civil & equal rights????

  10. Foxwood says:

    Our Constitution is nothing more than trash. Government ignores it and pays it no respect. Now with the press a lapdog and not a watchdog, Government can take us full speed into Socialism.

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