Saturday, June 27, 2009

Defending the Indefensible DOMA

"In recent years, several States have guaranteed gay and lesbian couples the freedom to marry as a basic civil right."
Right off, I feel nauseous reading this opening volley in the current Justice Department's Brief filed in the US District Court Case challenging the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act." It sickens me since I know where this is leading.

This is how you start an argument against same-sex marriage as a basic civil right?

It is the height of cynicism, worthy of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, or George W. Himself, to assert that the issue at the bottom of all this is no issue at all - and never was.

This business about "several States [having] guaranteed same-sex couples the freedom to marry" sets the disingenuous tone of this argument, which is carried through the entire brief:
"You uppity perverts should just shut the hell up and be grateful that a few backward states have so graciously - but wrongly - granted you the right to offend us 'real' Americans with your existence and to mock our real marriages-made-in-heaven with your godless fake ones!"
Such heartfelt sentiment was to be expected from the Bush Administration. But - appallingly - it seems to have spilled over into the allegedly gay-friendly Obama Justice Department.

It is, in fact, partly the work of one W. Scott Simpson, a Bush holdover (Mormon by coincidence?) who is named as Senior Trial Counsel on page 1 of the brief filed June 11, 2009.

Since that filing just weeks ago, other Repugnicans have used different language to convey the same sentiment and to advance the same political agenda. In Pennsylvania, for instance, State Sen. John Eichelberger (R. Bumphuk County), has introduced a Constitutional Amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the commonwealth. When asked in an NPR interview if the state's only policy toward same-sex couples should be to punish them, Eichelberger relied on his Repugnican talking point cheat sheet to declare, "They're not being punished! WE'RE ALLOWING THEM TO EXIST," damn it!

No big surprise, perhaps, in the land of "man-on-dog" Santorum to hear a Repugnican saying such things out loud. But what the hell is the Obama Administration and a Democratic-controlled Justice Department doing using those same talking points in a case against DOMA? Isn't this is one of the federal benchmarks of institutionalized homophobia that Obama vowed to use the full force of his office to repeal?

Fanning the flames of outrage over Obama's crass betrayal of his LGBT supporters on this key issue was the Administration's quick response to the initial uproar that only began to surround it. Disturbingly, vocal criticism of this action was quelled by deft political manipulation of the media by Obama's White House response team.

Due to the tedious legal language of this motion it took a few days for anybody to digest and convey to the rest of us how truly damaging its implications are to the struggle for LGBT civil rights. A few days was time enough, however, for Obama and his handlers to smack together a headline-grabbing proclamation of some "positive" crumb they could toss out there to distract their fuming LGBT constituency while at the same time not draw too much blow-back from the repugnant right. What they came up with and announced with enthusiastic fanfare is that partners of LGBT federal employees will now be eligible for spousal benefits!

Flash! Boom! Brilliant! Take a bow, Mr. President. A grateful queer nation thanks you for allowing us to exist in your government. And the Repugnicans of 2009, having become inured to our existence on this planet, will raise no fuss since this small gesture is clearly devoid of any meaning or substance and it can just as easily be undone.

The Fed's granting of spousal benefits is not just mimicking what most private sector employers of any size have already been doing for decades. It is actually just little more than a totally empty gesture since it lacks the single most important measure granted by other employers - health insurance coverage! (I don't know what LGBT spouses do get out of the new acknowledgment of their existence - maybe an invitation to the annual employee picnic?)

But the maneuver worked. The media bought it, hook line and stinker! Nary a peep in the press about how the LGBT civil rights movement may be set back by decades if Obama allows the offensive action of his Justice Department to go forward and if it succeeds in supporting the constitutionality of DOMA. And now, if the straight majority catches any word about the LGBT population being at all upset with our liberal President then WE come off looking like a bunch of whiney ingrates!

There is so much wrong with this deeply offensive motion and the politics surrounding it. So much has been written about it already by legal scholars and critics, some of whom are ardent LGBT Obama supporters. If the President does not soon and strongly disavow it (preferably firing Simpson and Co. in the process) then we can only assume that this is where his true sentiments lie. Regardless of the elegant lip service he pays to us when he needs our votes we will have to see him as being no more enlightened than the most repugnant Bush Administration official.

How can we not feel as though we've been made fools of again?

The crass cynicism of the motion does not stop with opening clause, of course. It carries all through the long and twisted brief painting a background scenario of the issues in the dankest tradition of historical revisionism. Reading through the motion you are asked to suspend your disbelief and ignore the turbulent experience that brought us same-sex lovers to this contentious point in our long struggle for equal rights. You are, in effect, asked to swallow the fantastical idea that the State legislatures of this great nation have spent the last decade or so reasonably and civilly considering the idea of encoding same-sex marriage into their laws on a benevolent "experimental" basis.

In this Bizarro World scenario it was not a hard-fought civil rights trench battle - declared a "culture war" on "perversion" by opportunistic Religio-pugnicans in the 1980s - that has actually raged on the public scene for over forty years. We have not been oppressed by ignorance and hatred for centuries, or claim to have ever been victims of mass violence, murder and often driven to suicide. We were never a people forced to deny our deep personal identities and conform impossibly to societal roles enforced by the tyranny of majority opinion. And we are not now forced to accept an inferior legal status steeped in religious tradition and other irrational forms of prejudice.

It is, in fact, only a deep but baseless sense of heterosexual entitlement that continues to deny homosexuals our rights to life, liberty and our pursuit of happiness as American citizens. Homosexual activity was decriminalized in America in 2003 but homosexuals in relationships are still oppressed by the assumed supremacy of those who claim to be purely heterosexual. But this boast is obviously a lie perpetrated even by self-righteous closet cases who enforce it until caught having homosexual relations themselves.

The sense of this brief in support of DOMA is that our benevolent state governments, in their wisdom, voluntarily looked down upon their citizenry and discovered that people were forming "nontraditional" relationships among themselves. The states apparently saw this and wondered how they could help us. Their approach was to be "cautious" so as to preserve the peace of the land by not upsetting those citizens who might not understand. A few states were chosen or volunteered to act as "laboratories" where the novel concept of tolerance would be tested using those poor misguided souls who wanted to "marry" each other (for goodness sakes!) as guinea pigs.

After the opening clause, this is how that concept is introduced in the Justice Department's motion:
"Yet, as same-sex couples in these States have won what they understandably view as a vital personal right of surpassing importance to their happiness and well-being, other States have reaffirmed the traditional understanding of marriage as the union of a man and a woman as husband and wife, an understanding held as a matter of profound moral and religious conviction by many of their citizens."
Since this is a case against the federal government, the Obama Feds are arguing that it should be dismissed on the grounds that the States, in taking on this "experiment in alternate forms of marriage," effectively relieved the federal government of any responsibility for its citizens in regard to marriage. It's the usual Repugnican cop-out, mouthed even by former VP Darth Cheney, that it should be up to the states to decide whether his lesbian daughter can have what he takes for granted as a non-lesbian everywhere across this country (think he really believes that?).

The most infuriating thing about all this is that the Feds did not HAVE to do or say anything concerning this case. Rather than going to the disgusting lengths they did - later using the tired old repugnancy of equating homosexual activity to incest, bestiality and child abuse - they did not need to file a brief at all. The original case, Smelt & Hammer v. USA, is a very weak one. It was never our best chance to defeat DOMA and it could be thrown out of court still on purely technical grounds.

The hearing for Obama's motion for dismissal of this suit is scheduled for August 3, 2009.

It can be withdrawn - and Obama should see to it. Pronto!

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