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Dueling Letters Show Congress' True Colors on DOMA

Dueling Letters Show Congress' True Colors on DOMA


While a letter from 133 House Democrats made clear today that they oppose the Defense of Marriage Act, another letter came from 86 House Republicans -- including Michele Bachmann -- that shows they not only support it but also want to go further.

The Republicans sent their letter to the U.S. Senate, making the case to party leaders that because DOMA applies to the military, same-sex couples should never be allowed to get married on bases or by military chaplains.

The Department of Defense does not agree, and it ruled in September that chaplains were beholden to state law and have the option to perform any "religious and other ceremonies" so long as state laws allow it. This, the Republicans say, is "circumventing the law."

DOMA specifically defines the word "marriage" or "spouse" so only straight couples are included whenever federal rules or laws are applied. But the Republicans point out that the military never said either of those words in issuing its guidance -- a move they paint as winning on a technicality.

Military leaders, however, made the change after the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was repealed and LGBT soldiers were allowed to serve openly. Their guidance said that if a military chaplain wants to oversee a gay wedding, then that decision "does not constitute an endorsement of the ceremony by DoD."

Meanwhile, 133 of the 192 House Democrats today lined up against DOMA, filing a brief in the legal battle over its constitutionality. They argue that Congress passed the law when same-sex marriage was only "hypothetical" and that the full consequences of their decision were never considered.

"Congress relied on implausible assertions about potential harms that might flow from allowing same-sex couples to marry," the brief contends, arguing that passage of the law was a mistake that has led to the federal government interfering in state matters.

Included among the 133 signees was Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, plus all four LGBT members of Congress.

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