Obama, Defense of Marriage Act, and the Political Climate of America

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011 was an important day in American life.  In a bold and historically rare Presidential judicial move, President Obama ordered Attorney General Eric Holder to no longer defend the Constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.  And hardly anyone noticed.  Even the supposed “right leaning” Fox News hardly covered the move, placing a small headline on FoxNews.com for a brief time.  Chances are, this decision will eventually become a point of debate and another piece of political divisiveness, but thus far it has gone largely unnoticed.

I find Obama’s actions incredibly interesting for a number of reasons.  Folks can and will debate the legitimacy of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act).  In case you need a quick refresher course, this Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996 and essentially states that no state can force another state to recognize the legitimacy of same-sex marriage and that the federal government cannot extend marriage benefits to same-sex couples.  What fascinates me most about this decision, however, is not the content itself of DOMA.  That is, of course, incredibly important and I will revisit in a separate article why I believe marriage should remain solely a male-female institution.  But this decision is interesting for other reasons.  Let me list a few here.

First, no one should be surprised by Obama’s actions.  Oh, perhaps we should be a bit shocked that he suddenly, without warning, and in the midst of other looming national issues decided to throw this on the table.  I will address that below.  But Obama made clear in his 2008 Presidential election platform that he was violently against DOMA and that he would seek to have it overturned.  Obama has simply stayed true to his convictions.  I have no problem with that in principle, that is what we want a President to do.  The American people voted him into office knowing where his heart is on this issue, we can hardly then be surprised by his action.  I am on the other side of Obama on this and believe this is a mistake, but I nevertheless must acknowledge that Obama is making decisions that he knows will cause attack on him and his administration because he thinks it is right.  That is commendable.  By the way, this is exactly what more left leaning folks should still be saying about George W. Bush.  They don’t, but if there was ever a President who stood his ground based on what he thought was best for the country, it was Bush (not to mention the massive human and social improvements he made in Africa that remains largely unnoticed by the left.  History will be much kinder to the Bush administration than we are today).  So, I have no problem with Obama doing what he thinks is right, even if it is controversial and even if I adamantly disagree with it.  He ran on a platform with this position and he is following through with it.

Second, either Obama is a political genius or he is a fool.  I tend to think the former.  Notice what he has done here.  He suddenly and unexpectedly made a powerful Presidential order that has enormous consequences and he did it when the nation’s attention was heavily turned to unions and Libya.  His actions will of course be noticed by the gay-rights voters who are applauding him and will secure in greater measure their vote for 2012.  Yet, because of all the other craziness happening in the nation and world, others (perhaps you) who are not intimately tied to the ongoing gay-rights issues will not necessarily pick up on what has happened.  In this sense, the timing of Obama affords him the best of both worlds – support by those who would be in favor of this action and ignorance by those who would be against it.

Third, even though this move by Obama might not be creating a political heat wave just yet, I have no doubt that it will resurface, and I think Obama understands that too.  Yet, he did it anyway.  That says something incredibly significant about where Obama and his administration believes the American people and our society at large are in 2011.  He clearly believes, since this is so close to an election year, that his action will not spell political doom for him in 2012, something that no other President would have been able to truly believe.  In other words, Obama believes the American climate is ready and willing to handle the disablement of traditional marriage.  If he is correct, Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011 will go down as a pivotal day in the radical reshaping of our nation and what our children will come to understand as normative. 

And no one seems to notice.


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4 Replies to “Obama, Defense of Marriage Act, and the Political Climate of America”

  1. Excellent post. There is one very significant area you overlooked, however, in this decision (copied from the White House website):

    “The power of the Executive Branch is vested in the President of the United States, who also acts as head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The President is responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws written by Congress and, to that end, appoints the heads of the federal agencies, including the Cabinet. ”

    The executive branch enforces the laws of the land through the DOJ.
    They don’t get to pick which laws they agree with and only enforce those.
    If they don’t agree with a law, their recourse is either through the legislative or judicial branches, just like every other American. Governance by whim and personal fiat has no place in our form of government. This, I believe, is significant. What law is next?

    1. Thanks for reading Troy and for your well-written comment.

      I surely agree with your assessment and did not overlook the dangerous ongoing precedent being set by Obama. The point of this post was to elaborate on how Obama and the White House view the political and social climate in America and their strategy hereto, not make an argument against the legitimacy of his action.

      And to be fair, although rare, this is not new. Truman, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton all refused to defend laws they felt were unconstitutional during their watch. None of those, however, have the potential consequences of Obama’s order.

      I would love to hear from you more often. Blessings.


  2. Philip, I appreciate this article more than you know for I have been feeling surrounded by the enemy due to the fact that many of my friends have a differing opinion about this matter. Like you, I am concerned that our democratic government is being slowly dismantled by presidential edicts and most of us are not noticing the trend. Many of our citizens are just trying to make ends meet, keep their homes, and find jobs and don’t have time to consider the larger picture. Such a shame and thank you for this well written and reasearched artice. The former English teacher in me says, “Well done.” Keep writing for I so look forward to them.

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