As I wrote on February 27 in a “There, I Said It!” feature in the Politics section of Blogcritics, a number of attacks on President Obama for his decision no longer to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) have been based on a fallacy. conservative pundits, most notably Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, have stated in a variety of venues that the administration has decided no longer to enforce DOMA. In fact, the administration has announced that it will indeed continue to enforce DOMA in its entirety, as a law duly passed by an act of Congress and signed into law by the president of the United States (in this case, President Clinton in 1996).
The administration, however, will no longer defend challenges in the courts to the constitutionality of a specific section of DOMA. In particular, the administration will no longer defend challenges to Section Three of DOMA, which provides that, for federal purposes, the only legally acceptable definition of marriage is that of a legal union between one man and one woman.
Moreover, as reported on March 3 by David Badash in his article, “Why Are Palin And Huckabee Lying About Candidate Obama’s DOMA Position?” published online on The New Civil Rights Movement, a number of conservative pundits have taken it a step further and added another fallacious claim to their attack on the president around this issue. Not only are they claiming that President Obama has decided not to enforce DOMA; they are also claiming that this policy decision (a decision which, remember, the president has not in fact made) constitutes a flip-flop; a change from his position on DOMA during the 2008 presidential campaign.
This claim, too, is fallacious. In fact, when Senator Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he and his spokespersons consistently stated that while Obama was opposed to same-sex marriage, he was also opposed to DOMA, and if elected would work for its repeal. Moreover, Obama opposed DOMA in 2006, when he was a candidate for the United States Senate from Illinois.
Now, potential Republican candidates for the 2012 presidential nomination like Mike Huckabee, and Republican members of Congress like Representative Trent Franks of Arizona, are calling for impeachment if President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder do not reverse their stance on DOMA.
It remains to be seen how much traction this issue will continue to have for conservative pundits and Republican politicians, including a wide field of Republican presidential hopefuls. In the meantime, the administration is not backing down. Appearing on Capitol Hill to testify about his department’s budget request, Attorney General Holder responded firmly to pointed questioning by Representative Frank Wolf, a Republican from Virginia, about the administration’s recently announced stance on DOMA. Holder reaffirmed the appropriateness of the decision, detailing the changes in the legal and legislative landscape that have occurred since DOMA became law in 1996, including the recent repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.