Politics

Gay-Marriage Decision Puts Florida on Notice

Obama administration won't enforce federal ban on same-sex marriage
By: Kenric Ward | Posted: February 24, 2011 3:55 AM
In an extraordinary move, the Obama administration's Justice Department announced Wednesday that it will no longer enforce a federal law barring gay marriage.

In Florida, where more than 60 percent of voters passed a constitutional ban on same-sex weddings, the action was denounced as an unprecedented attack on traditional marriage.

"It's outrageous that the chief executive of the country is failing to uphold the law," said John Stemberger, an Orlando attorney who led the successful 2008 ballot campaign to add a marriage-protection provision to the Florida Constitution.

"Every state that has voted on this issue has voted to do so by overwhelming majorities," Stemberger said.

But Florida Together, a gay-rights group, applauded Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement, predicting that it will "have a significant impact on marriage equality for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans."

"Clearly, the momentum is on our side. The tide has turned and it's in our favor," said Michael Kenny, executive director of the West Palm Beach-based advocacy group.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act law was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, amid concerns that courts, beginning with Massachusetts, were overturning state marriage laws and opening the door to gay weddings.

The law, which defines marriage between a man and a woman, effectively denies access to marriage-based federal benefits by same-sex couples.

In July, the U.S. Department of Justice had appealed a federal judge's ruling that struck down DOMA. But in a stunning about-face, Holder said Wednesday that he and President Barack Obama had determined that the law's key section is "unconstitutional."

The timing was curious from a legal standpoint, since the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to take a California case challenging that state's defense-of-marriage initiative, approved by voters in 2008.

The administration's announcement was a political shock, as well. Since the shellacking Democrats suffered in the November election, Obama had tried to take a more centrist posture, supporting an extension of the Bush tax rates and reaching out to the business community.

With his decision, Obama rattled his support among African-Americans, who generally oppose same-sex marriage. Post-election analyses found that the large black voter turnout in California in 2008 helped provide the margin of victory for the state's marriage-protection initiative, which was on the ballot with Obama.

Florida, whose constitutional amendment passed easily with 61 percent of the vote, also has a state statute that mirrors the federal DOMA law.

Stemberger said the administration's abandonment of the federal law could "slowly undermine" state laws.

"If the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the California law violates the equal protection clause, that would clearly unravel all the laws," he said.

Kenny added, "It will be interesting to watch it evolve and how this will affect, long-term, the constitutional amendment here."

In the past, Obama has said he did not support the right of gay couples to marry. But in December, amid persistent lobbying by homosexual organizations, the president acknowledged that his views were "evolving.''

Brian Winfield, director of communications for Equality Florida, said that the administration's decision should expand the number of states where Florida gay couples could go to marry.

"This is not just a political football," Winfield said. "There are some 1,100 benefits to be had at the federal level -- real things like retirement benefits, Social Security, medical rights and the enhanced ability to take care of one another."

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi declined to comment.

Last year, a court declared Florida's ban on adoption by same-sex couples unconstitutional.

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Reach Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.





Comments (12)

2 tell the truth
12:45PM MAR 22ND 2011
In fact, the original author of the DOMA, Bob Barr, (R), says it should be repealed because it creates a "one-way Federalism", in that, while marriage is a States' right issue, the DOMA prevents the Federal government from recognizing those perfectly legal marriages in the 7 jurisdictions in which same-gender marriage is allowed.

Shame on you Kenric Ward for publishing blatant falsehoods.
2 tell the truth
12:43PM MAR 22ND 2011
"the Obama administration's Justice Department announced Wednesday that it will no longer enforce a federal law barring gay marriage."

This is not true. (i.e. this is a LIE, aka the bearing of false witness, aka a 'seeyun'). STOP LYING!

Or did you not read the actual DoJ statement which refutes this untruth in black and white:

"Section 3 of DOMA will continue to remain in effect unless Congress repeals it or there is a final judicial finding that strikes it down, and the President has informed me that the Executive Branch will continue to enforce the law."

What the Administration is NOT going to do is defend the DEMONSTRABLY UN-Constitutional part of the law, the one that denies some people equal treatment under the law. Section 3 of the DOMA clearly contravenes the Equal Protections Clause of the US Constitution.

BTW, it ALSO contravenes the Full Faith & Credit Clause. It contains language that EXEMPTS ITSELF from this provision of the Constitution.

Could you please explain how ANY law that EXEMPTS ITSELF from the Constitution be considered 'Constitutional' in the first place?
2 tell the truth
12:37PM MAR 22ND 2011
"Stemberger said the administration's abandonment of the federal law could "slowly undermine" state laws."

As well they SHOULD be. Treating one portion of the population unfairly, un-equally before the law is UN-Constitutional.

And voting on other people's human and civil rights and freedoms is an obscenity, unworthy of America. It sh!ts on (some) people's Constitutional freedoms. Just ask the Lovings.
Linguist
7:14AM FEB 24TH 2011
With respect, you misrepresent what the Administration has said and what it is doing. It is NOT the case that it will "no longer enforce a federal law barring gay marriage."

Rather, given key elements of the law that it has reviewed, it will not go to court to defend its constitutionality.

It will, however, continue to enforce it since, until a court rules otherwise, it remains the law.

Pretty significant distinction.
Robert Lloyd
11:02AM FEB 24TH 2011
>>Holder said Wednesday that he and President Barack Obama had determined that the law's key section is "unconstitutional."<<

Mr (or Ms) Linguist, is "unconstitutional" not clear here? And do Holder and Obama determine constitutionality of our laws? Strange, I thought the Supreme Court did that?

Mr Ward writes a good piece! Read and learn Mr (or Ms) Linquist.
2 tell the truth
12:50PM MAR 22ND 2011
Both the Attorney General and the President (a Constitutional lawyer, btw) are of the opinion that Section 3 is Un-Constitutional. They are saving the taxpayers money by not defending an indefensible law. They are entitled to their opinion, as are you, but they ARE letting the SCOTUS make the final decision as to its Constitutinoality. (From the DoJ statement, once again):

"Section 3 of DOMA will continue to remain in effect unless Congress repeals it or there is a final judicial finding that strikes it down, and the President has informed me that the Executive Branch will continue to enforce the law. But while both the wisdom and the legality of Section 3 of DOMA will continue to be the subject of both extensive litigation and public debate, this Administration will no longer assert its constitutionality in court."

There's a difference. Perhaps Mr.Lloyd is the one who should "read" what the DoJ actually stated and "learn" the difference.
Bob
8:14AM FEB 24TH 2011
It will not take long for some court to rule gay marriage constitutional, look at OBAMACARE!
2 tell the truth
12:52PM MAR 22ND 2011
Bob, the health care reform law has nothing to do with the DOMA.

"will not take long"??? Sorry, wrong tense. FYI, many courts have already ruled that all adult couples have the right to enter into marriage. That's why there are tens of thousands of perfectly legal same-gender marriages in America.
RepublicanConscience
6:43AM FEB 24TH 2011
The Commie-in-Chief basically said, screw you America, I am President and I don't have to enforce the laws of the land if I don't want to. Well screw him, he committed an official public confession of a violation of his oath of office. Put him on notice that the first directive of the new President will be to arrest him.
2 tell the truth
12:54PM MAR 22ND 2011
Hmmm, promulgating lies is the "RepublicanConscience". That's just sad.

His oath of office is to uphold the Constitution. The DOMA violates it. And, he said he will continue to enforce the law. (Or didn't YOU read the DoJ statement either?)

Lying does not help your anti-equality cause, I'm afraid.
Bob
8:11AM FEB 24TH 2011
Why do we have any laws in this Country? Rahm from Chicago showed that you do not have to live in Chicago for a year to run for that seat, when he clearly resided in Washington, D.C. The O'Bama administration is suing Arizona to prevent them from enforcing their immigration law that was passed. Soon, I predict, you will see anarchy, because this President is not uniting a great Country, but deliberately trying to divide it, and this is very dangerous in America.
Thomaci
7:55AM FEB 25TH 2011
"....I ain't blind, an I don't like what I think I see; takin it to the streets". I am so glad I lived long enough to see what is finally going to happen in the next few years ahead.

The left leaning tower of academia may well topple under it's own weight.
Labor Unions are about to get slapped down.
National Public Radio may have to turn down the volume.
The Federal Government may have to balance it's budget like the rest of us
States could possibly reclaim Home rule and States rights

Too bad it has taken us to the precipice of a Global meltdown to realize it all and act.

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