The GOP has long argued that states have a much greater ability to decide issues that concern its citizens than the federal government does and that the federal government should not usurp a state’s ability to make these decisions. They believe this to be part of the original intent of our Founding Fathers. In fact, the sovereignty of states’ rights and the expansion of these rights are important planks in the platforms of all four 2012 GOP presidential candidates. These candidates believe that states should have the right to decide on major issues such as education, abortion, environmental concerns, health care and energy development without federal interference. Yet, the GOP and House Speaker John Boehner are currently leading a charge AGAINST states’ rights.
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which passed in 1996, prohibits the federal government from recognizing any marriage that is not between a man and a woman and allows states to refuse to honor any marriage that does not fit that category, even if legally executed in another state. This has been used to deny benefits to federal employees and military personnel who are part of a same-sex marriage, even if they live and work in a state that recognizes their marriage, as well as by states to refuse spousal rights to citizens of other states. This law has been shot down in numerous court cases as unconstitutional and the Obama Administration has refused to defend any court challenges to the law due to its unconstitutional nature.
The Senate voted to repeal the law in 2011, but so far the GOP-controlled House has refused to do so. In fact, under John Boehner it has gone one step further. It has taken up defending the law in court cases and is currently doing so in several cases challenging the constitutionality of DOMA.
Regardless of how you feel about same-sex marriage and the constitutionality of DOMA, you must recognize this for what it is—an infringement of states’ rights. By using DOMA to refuse to practically recognize marriages a state’s citizens and governments have chosen to legally endorse, the federal government is telling those states and its citizens that they do not have the right to decide on their own what a marriage is and who they can extend it to. DOMA also gives some states more rights than others by allowing them to negate and ignore the rights of citizens of those states that choose to permit same-sex marriage.
By defending this law, the GOP is saying states do not have the right to decide on this issue– an issue with much less social and economic impact than many of the states’ rights issues currently being promoted by the GOP and its presidential candidates. This is hypocritical at the very least, since it goes against the very cause of states’ rights the party champions; the fact that it is in defense of a law that promotes unconstitutional discrimination makes it even worse. Yet again, the GOP is showing its true colors here– that when it comes to socially conservative hot button issues, constitutional rights do not matter and it is more than willing to trample on the rights of all to force its narrow social agenda.