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March 3, 2011

Column #1,540

Obama Dismisses Marriage At His Peril

By Mike McManus

            Has President Obama made a major political mistake in refusing to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) because he thinks it is unconstitutional?

            Does he have the authority to declare a law unconstitutional?  No, a seventh grader could explain that is the job of the Supreme Court.  As President, he swore an oath to “uphold” laws enacted by Congress.

            DOMA defines “marriage” as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.”

            Is that an unpopular idea?  Yes, with gays, but they are about 2% of voters.

            DOMA passed Congress by overwhelming margins: 342-67 in the House and 85-14 in the Senate.  Though initiated by Republicans, Democratic Bill Clinton signed it.          

            Ah, but that was in 1996, long before Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington D.C. legalized same-sex marriages.

            Polls show an increasing public support for gay marriage.  In 2009, it was opposed by 54% of Americans, and supported by 37%.  By 2010 the margin dropped to 48% opposed to 42% in favor.

            However, blacks remain adamantly opposed, by a 2-1 margin, 59% to 30%.

            A coalition of 34,000 black churches blasted Obama’s decision to stop defending the federal law that bans recognition of gay marriage.

            Pastor Tony Evans, who heads the National Black Church Initiative, charges Obama “has violated the Christian faith” by failing to uphold Jesus’ teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman.

            The Justice Department announced last week that, at Obama’s direction, it would no longer defend DOMA in court cases where it is being challenged.

            Consequently, Evans says black churches must “reassess their extraordinary support of him.” In the 2008 election, African American voters split their votes in California, voting overwhelmingly for Obama – but also by 70% for Proposition 8, the California measure banning gay marriage. 

            The result? Obama beat McCain in California by 24%, but Prop 8 squeaked through 52-48,with that black support.

            This week the black storm cloud became more visible in the blue state of Maryland, a traditionally Democratic bastion.  A gay marriage bill that sailed through the MD Senate ran into a snag in the House Judiciary Committee, expected to rubber-stamp it.

            First, Melvin Stukes, a black co-sponsor of the same-sex bill, switched to oppose it.  Then two black Democrats, who were expected “Yes” votes, failed to show up for a House committee vote, and the bill was yanked from the floor.

            Even if the bill is passed, and signed by the governor, as he promised, opponents have pledged to gather signatures to put the issue on the 2012 ballot.

            All 31 states who have voted on it, have supported traditional marriage.

            One of those votes overturned a gay marriage law in Maine, and so many Democrats who had backed it were defeated in 2010, the Legislature turned Republican.

            Similarly, in Rhode Island, a same-sex bill was expected to zip through with support by the governor and an openly gay House Speaker. However, opposition by the Catholic Church and the National Organization for Marriage was so potent, that the bill was pulled back from consideration.  Its future is uncertain.  Why? 

            Congress explained the societal interest it sought to advance: “At bottom, civil society has an interest in maintaining and protecting the institution of heterosexual marriage because it has a deep and abiding interest in encouraging responsible procreation and child-rearing.  Simply put, government has an interest in marriage because it has an interest in children.”

            In his 1828 American Dictionary, Noah Webster defined marriage as the “act of uniting a man and woman for life,” because marriage “was instituted …for the purpose of preventing the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, for promoting domestic felicity, and for securing the maintenance and education of children.”

            Only marriage can connect fathers to their children. As Obama himself declared in 2008, “Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison.”

            Sadly, only 45% of American teenagers are growing up in homes with their married parents, while 55% live where parents “rejected each other,” as the Family Research Council put it.

            The American people are realizing this is a profound error.  They do not want to support one more way to weaken marriage.  That’s why every state has opposed gay marriage.

            Opposition to Obama will mount as a result of his refusal to defend U.S. law supporting traditional marriage.

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