Silly Season for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
As you may be aware, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) will soon decide whether to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as constitutional, or not. This statute was signed by Bill Clinton (who has now “evolved” into not only an opponent of DOMA but also a denier of its constitutionality).
One of the things that DOMA did was define what the word “marriage” means as that term is used in other federal statutes, and that definition is a union between a woman and man. On the other hand, DOMA allows states to define the word however they want in the statutes that their legislatures write.
The dispute seems to boil down to whether Congress has power to define the terms it uses. This is a very weird argument, in my view. One of its main proponents is Ernie Young, and he writes that Congress can’t do this because each state should decide what this word in federal statutes means. If a state passes a law that says single people who are next-door-neighbors shall be deemed married for purposes of federal law, then Congress is helpless to clarify what federal statutes mean by the word “marriage.”
Surely, we are now in the Twilight Zone. Young compares this situation to a hypothetical federal statute that deems two people married even though they’ve obtained a divorce under state law. But if there are nutjobs in Congress who would do such a thing, I say let ’em do it, and let ’em lose their seats in Congress.
Please note that I am only speaking here about the constitutionality of DOMA. I am not addressing whether it was a good statute in the first place, or whether Congress ought to repeal it. But I will note that there are an awful lot of speech police in this country who want to insist that everyone be forced to call a union between man and man (or woman and woman) a “marriage.” That seems wrong to me, and akin to forcing everyone to call a rose a tulip.