Wednesday, February 23, 2011

DOMA Be Gone? Not Yet, But Look Closer.

All of a sudden, hell froze over. President Obama directed the Justice Department to drop its legal defense of Section 3 of DOMA ("Defense of Marriage" Act), the provision of the 1996 statute forbidding the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages. This prevents legally married gay and lesbian couples from accessing such basics like federal tax deductions and spousal Social Security benefits that they're otherwise entitled to, and this is the provision being challenged in federal court.

And now, we're also hearing this.

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) today said, “My own belief is that when two people love each other and enter the contract of marriage, the Federal government should honor that,” and then announced her intention to introduce a bill to repeal DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act that bans federal recognition of same-sex marriages, into the Senate. This comes just hours after Attorney General Eric Holder announced President Obama believes DOMA to be unconstitutional and they have agreed to not defend the fifteen-year old law in court.

In a statement, Senator Feinstein announced, “As a Member of the Judiciary Committee, it is my intention to introduce legislation that will once and for all repeal the Defense of Marriage Act,” adding, “I opposed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.  It was the wrong law then; it is the wrong law now; and it should be repealed.”

Wow. No, really. Wow!

So now President Obama realizes there's no credible Constitutional defense of discrimination? And Dianne Feinstein is going to the mat for equality in The Senate? What's going on?

Perhaps 2012 politics is already in play. And funny enough, I think that's a good thing. Let me explain.

For far too long, we queer folk have been subjected to being scapegoated for pretty much all the nation's woes, and we've been used and abused as political pinatas as politicians out-maneuvered each other on who was more homophobic. Basically, our suffering was considered "good politics".

But all of a sudden, that seems to be changing. Now don't get me wrong, we still have a long road ahead of us in becoming truly equal in this country. Still, it's funny to see more and more politicians embrace LGBTQ equality as a "winning issue" and embrace pro-equality policy as good politics. It may not seem like much at first glance, but it's quite the step forward.

Remember that just seven years ago, President Bush embraced a Constitutional marriage ban and Congress was debating whether to make us permanent second class citizens and enshrine bigotry in our Federal Constitution. So even if there's virtually no chance of Congress repealing DOMA this year, it's at least refreshing to see the legislative conversation move from taking away our civil rights to protecting our civil rights. And even if Congress doesn't repeal DOMA soon, the courts will one day.

So today may be one small step for Barack Obama and Dianne Feinstein, but it's one giant leap for LGBTQ equality.

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