Bob Barr on DOMA
May 03 2011 1:10 PM ET
This doesn’t seem to be a part of the current marriage equality playbook. Have you had any support in your viewpoint beyond Libertarian circles?
No, it’s not something that comes up a lot. Which was one reason why I was glad to have the invitation to be here tonight, to be able to talk about it and get that viewpoint out there.
Do you believe the federal government will ever “get out of the marriage business,” as you advocate?
It’s going to be difficult. It’s going to be difficult to get the government out of many things, once they get into it. I used to do a radio show called Bob Barr’s Laws of the Universe. One of the laws is that the most powerful force in the universe is the force of the status quo. Once something becomes law, once something becomes institutionalized, it becomes extremely difficult to move away from it.
I think certainly we see on some of these issues that used to get people really defensive, such as the marriage issue and the marijuana issue, we are slowly seeing some changes, and that’s the result, certainly to some extent, of demographics. Younger people seem to be much more open to not being so wedded to the status quo.
So I think it’s certainly possible, but it’s going to take a concerted effort over a long period of time.
Your reasons for scrapping DOMA primarily have to do with protecting states’ rights and limiting the power of the federal government — concrete, nonemotional points. Have you ever been moved by personal stories of those discriminated against in forming your position?
I’ve actually had some very lengthy discussions with a number of Libertarian groups back in ’07 and ’08. I joined the Libertarian Party in late ’06, if I’m not mistaken, and there’s one particular group, I forget the name, in the Libertarian Party. And I spent actually a couple of hours over a couple days at one of the conventions just sitting down and talking with them. And that was very influential. Just sitting in a concentrated way, because we were in a private room, just sitting and talking about it. Aside from politics and so forth. More than anything else, it just opened my eyes to looking at it from a much more objective standpoint. Other than that, nothing really, but it was just very influential having those discussions.
Looking back, what would you have done differently in terms of this 1996 law?
Well, you can’t answer that question. The answer would be as meaningless as the question. The perspective that I bring to this now is different. It’s based on 15 years of experience, and in particular, 10 years since 9/11.
To me, 9/11 was a turning point in our history, and as I’ve said a number of times, has caused me to go back and take a much more careful look at a whole range of issues and powers the government has in light of where we stand now, post-9/11. We stand in a world in which the U.S. government — and even state governments to some extent — but primarily the federal government, claim the right to basically control people absolutely. And therefore the sphere of freedom that we have left is so small that it’s caused me to go back and take a new and a very hard look at a number of these areas. It was easier back then to say, “Well, yeah, we don’t like so much government control, but it’s just a little bit that they’re controlling over here; the marriage issue, that’s no big deal, we still have all these other rights and freedoms.” You can’t say that anymore. The world is just very different.