Once again, President Obama has disregarded the strongly held beliefs and moral convictions of a majority of the American people.  He did this on February 23, while at the same time running roughshod over the Constitution of the United States.

 This latest show of presidential chutzpah:  Mr. Obama ordered the Department of Justice to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act. 

Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is reported to have authored a “tweet” in support of the President’s action.  “Thrilled,” she said, “@The JusticeDept is no longer defending an indefensible statute—all American families should be treated equally! #DOMA.”

You don’t say. 

Apparently, the issue isn’t so straightforward to all.  Commentators and bloggers alike lined up to express their outrage.

Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, in a debate on Fox News with liberal commentator Alan Colmes, said,

The idea that the President of the United States can order the Department of Justice to not defend a law duly passed by Congress and signed by then-President Clinton should send shock-waves through anybody that’s concerned about civil rights and civil liberties.

Catholic scholar Robert P. George called Attorney General Eric Holder’s defense of the Obama administration’s position “extremely worrying” and “dripping with animus” against  Christians who consider marriage to be “the conjugal union of a husband and wife.”

Speaking to the Catholic News Agency, George said,

He treats that belief as if it were a mere prejudice, as though it is motivated by a desire to cause harm to people.  Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. It is a legitimate moral belief that has informed our law throughout history.

….It raises the concern that the Justice Department will treat believing Christians, Jews, Muslims and others as though they are the equivalent of racists.

Philosopher and scholar Francis Beckwith points out, with tongue in cheek, that this may be just the tip of the iceberg:  that if Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional and violates the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, then it follows logically that other restrictions on marriage would likely be unconstitutional, as well—throwing the door open for marriage among groups of four or five polyamorous bisexual people, for instance.  He notes in his blog:

I don’t know if the Obama people thought this through, but the implication of General Holder’s claim is not only that the constitution requires genderless marriage but it requires that a limitation of marriage to two must withstand heightened scrutiny as well.  This means that the 19th century federal statutes that made polygamy illegal in the territories are probably unconstitutional as well.

Actually, in reality, most court decisions over the past decade have leaned toward protecting existing state and federal marriage regulations.  Those regulations have recognized the longstanding cultural standard of one man-one woman, and have moved beyond the obvious plumbing considerations to protect marriage from redefinition by same-sex activists.  The Justice Department, in enforcing this newest presidential decree, seems to have forgotten its own history. 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who have tried to work cooperatively with the federal government in many areas such as immigration and social services, felt it necessary to speak out strongly against this latest affront to traditional understandings of marriage.  Their statement bears reprinting in its entirety.

February 23, 2011

USCCB Decries Refusal to Support Defense of Marriage Act

WASHINGTON (February 23, 2011) — The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issues the following from its Office of General Counsel:

“Marriage has been understood for millennia and across cultures as the union of one man and one woman.  Today, the President has instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law reiterating that definition of marriage, passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Democratic President just fifteen years ago.  The principal basis for today’s decision is that the President considers the law a form of impermissible sexual orientation discrimination.

“This decision represents an abdication of the responsibility of the Executive Branch to carry out its constitutional obligation to ensure that the laws of the United States are faithfully executed.  It is also a grave affront to the millions of Americans who both reject unjust discrimination and affirm the unique and inestimable value of marriage as between one man and one woman.  Support for actual marriage is not bigotry, but instead an eminently reasonable, common judgment affirming the foundational institution of civil society.  Any suggestion by the government that such a judgment represents “discrimination” is a serious threat to the religious liberty of marriage supporters nationwide.”

February 23, 2011

Anthony R. Picarello, Jr.
General Counsel
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

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