Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Obama gets one right

Because largely-symbolic political gestures that effectively do little more than kick the can down the road to the point where it'll ultimately be settled by the courts which as going to happen anyway ain't just for Republicans anymore, the Obama Administration announces that it will no longer defend the asinine "Defense of Marriage Act" in federal court. Furthermore, they've publically declared intent for this to be a lead-in to an eventual repeal of the act. Translation: "Gay Rights supporters? Get out and vote for our guys next time - we need a majority to make this happen."

"DOMA" was essentially a packet of provisions that prevented any laws, particularly those concerning partner-benefits, from "blurring" the line between same-sex couples and married heterosexual couples; so all this really means is that the lawsuits against discriminatory practices in this particular realm can now be made without the innevitable prospect of "DOMA" being used to block it from going through. So... not really a sea-change, but a win is a win.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program of Republicans and Democrats both pretending A.) to be shocked - shocked! - that the other side is dealing with social issues before "creating jobs;" and B.) to believe that they can actually do anything about "creating jobs" in the first place.


Arman said...
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Arman said...

Kind of bizarre on Obama's part. He's been defending this for two years and ALL OF A SUDDEN he decides that he has a problem with it? Smells like a political tactic.

God I pray the Republican's don't take this bait. Please don't take this bait!

Stay on target! Stay on target! :p

Mark said...


I'd venture to guess the opposite is true. Obama's opposition to gay marriage during the elections, etc., always seemed to me to be merely for political reasons, not to scare away the swing voters. I'm pretty sure this is actually closer to what he'd like to be doing... just a few years late.

David said...

lol'd at the "Creating Jobs" bit. I suppose I always subconsciously thought there was something wrong about the whole "creating jobs" emphasis. Nice to see that someone has spoken for my subconscious and clearly said that thinking you can just "create" jobs is questionable to say the least. (Although another (childish) part of me thought you could hire a health guy or two for like, every fast food restaurant and kaboom! More jobs than people. But again, that's my inner child.)

Arman said...


You could be right, I can't read the President's mind.

However, it is a distraction. I really don't want to see Republicans get into this fight.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

Seriously, just put through a constitutional amendment that makes gay marriage legal... or illegal... or whatever, and get past all this political posturing that doesn't really do anything and wastes everyone's time. I can't stand much more of all this political back door crap coming out of Washington.

Bob said...

I think the writing is pretty-much on the wall at this point: If Obama gets a 2nd term, gay marriage will be legalized nationwide before 2016. If he doesn't, it'll probably be legalized by 2016 anyway but through a Supreme Court decision instead of an executive order or act of Congress.

Alcibiades said...

You're off your rocker, Bob. Much as I'd love it to happen, there's absolutely no way there's enough support to get a constitutional amendment through, which is what it would require to override state policy on marriage issues.

Even setting aside the constitutional question, you couldn't find even 25% of the Senate and House even before the Republicans swept into power in favor of a federal solution to gay marriage. Hell, even at the height of Republican ascendancy in the mid-2000s an amendment to define marriage as a man and a woman at the federal level was a non-starter.

At BEST we can talk about a repeal of DOMA if the court challenges fail, though even that's something of a pipe dream.

Color me pessimistic about the prospects of a supreme court case in the near future, as well. They tend not to get too far out ahead of social change, and with just 6 states under our belts I don't think they'd be willing to stick their necks out quite yet. Give it a couple decades when a plurality of states, or at the very least a majority of states by population, has a civil union or marriage law.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Bob

Eh... I wouldn't hold out much hope for Obama getting re-elected. Though, I guess that really depends on who the GOP run against him.

And, I think I made it pretty clear back on Prop-8 issue that I'm very much so against the courts just stepping in a deciding it for the rest of us. It does nothing to end the legal controversy (as there's no real constitutional grounds for such a decision right now), and it's pretty unconstitutional for the courts to even be able to do that which is probably why the Supreme Court ops to do so so rarely.

Still, I think the democrats should just take a stab at it and see how it goes (though, their odds would've been a hell'a'lot better if they tried a year ago, but still). At least pretend that they're trying to pass it in a way that doesn't circumvent the system.

Tim said...


Sarge said...


Actually, historically speaking, it's very unlikely for Obama NOT to get re-elected. A lot of people would argue that Obama's election was a "realigning" election, that showed, for the first time, the voting power of young people that came of age during the "Bush Years." The "shallacking" that Democrats took back in November was expected by most historians -- the reason for it is that the new "young person" voting block simply isn't as motivated to get out and vote for congressional elections as they are for presidential elections.

And I'm sorry... it's unconstitutional for the Supreme Court to do WHAT now?

Bob said...

If there's one thing I get sick of hearing, it's the notion that law being made/remade as the result of a court decision is "circumventing the system." At best, it betrays a near-complete ignorance of governmental workings; at worst it betrays a willingness to feign said ignorance in order to inflame the passions of "average folks" who - BEING "average folks" - probably don't know any better.

The Judiciary is PART of the system, and among other things they are allowed to rule on the constitutionality of laws. You are not "circumventing" the system if you are PART of the system and act within the established perameters of your function. If I snuck into The Capitol with a quill-pen and white-out and decided that we needed a few less ammendments - THAT'S circumventing the system.

No one with even a rudimentary understanding of (or respect for) U.S. law has any justification for buying into this populist bullshit that assumes everything should be decided by popular majority. The United States is a REPUBLIC - we don't decided ANYTHING important by popular majority; because popular majority are almost always wrong... "lowest common denominator" and all that.

Sarge said...

Thank you, Mr. Bob. I find myself hating you a little less than normal right now, you overrated hack you.

Reverend Allan Ironside said...

Popular majority is almost always wrong, eh, Bob? I bet King George III thought much the same thing. Those damned Colonists just don't know what's good for them, do they? Thank God the government is here to decide for us, because we're too damn stupid to know whats good for us.

Sarge said...

Well, some of you (us) were smart enough to invest our sovereignty into a combination of elected and appointed leaders to protect our rights... so you (we) aren't all THAT stupid.

Sovereignty v. Rights is complicted, Reverend Ironside. Careful about boiling it down to "What Would King George Say!"'s

Reverend Allan Ironside said...

I'm just saying that it's a very uppity way of looking at the situation.

Look, I'm a man of faith, but I believe that the law is the voice of our people. We elect our leaders to represent us and even if we disagree with them, there's always the chance to vote someone else in.

Now I may have my issues with the President, but my faith is actually very specific even though the precises scripture escapes me. Paraphrasing, I am to follow the law of the land as set down by my leaders and if the law is changed, the law is changed.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Sarge & Bob

The US Constitution, as it is written, does not give the Supreme Court the authority of judicial review. That exists soley by litigal precedent. Should it? I don't think so, but that's moot. It doesn't. It's just not there. It doesn't officially exist anywhere in written US law, as far as I know (Though, it could have been added into some obscure law at some point recently. I honestly don't know. But, it's still not in the Constitution).

And again, there's nothing written in the constitution that would expressly ban DOMA or any other "protection of traditional marriage" bills. Should there be? Yes, absolutly. But, there isn't. And that needs to be fixed by fixing the Constitution... not by going around it.

So, an interesting word I've learned since the Prop-8 debate... Majoritarianism. I would absolutely consider myself a majoritarian because, frankly, if some one has to get their way it might as well be most of us. I'm not convinced the popular majority is necessarily any more or less wrong than any smaller group because everyone pretty much just has their own self-interests at heart. Everyone has a very different idea of what our government should be and should be doing... I have my own personal beliefs, but I don't think most anyone else's is necessarily right or wrong, just a matter of preference. So, I can't help but think that government should simply try to accommodate as many people as it can.

Christopher said...

Oh my gosh, the Obama administration did SOMETHING, incredible

Joe said...

@Reverend, I'm not even American, and I know support for the Revolution barely reached 45% (and was usually closer to 40%). Not quite a popular majority.

tyra menendez said...

You know what Allan? You are too stupid to know what's good for you. Because Americans are too stupid to know what's good for them, there had to be a law, forcing sex ed, because a bunch of superstitious morons were afraid of their own genitals and think sex is evil, so told their kids to be the same and that masturbation will make you go blind or is the work of the devil, or whatever.
Dawkins sites a Muslim school in England that teaches kids that salt water and fresh water don't mix, because the Koran claims this. And this is in science class.
So yeah, people don't know what's good for them, often times because they're too ignorant of all the issues to make an informed decision, but sometimes because their minds have been corrupted.

Sarge said...

Legal precedent is not, by any stretch of the imagination, "going around the constitution." The Constitution is a Framework and a supreme law, meaning that it establishes by what standards and what basic principles other laws are written. There's nothing in the constitution, for example, explicitly banning murder. Basically, when you say that we need a Gay Marriage Amendment, you're revealing that you actually don't know anything about our legal system.

Secondly, I'm glad you mentioned "majoritarianism" because it gives me a better idea of just how misguided you are. Please read something about that concept instead of just repeating it, because it is a word used most commonly to justify racism, oppression, and the tyranny of the majority. The People of the United States have an obligation to more than just white heterosexuals, thank you, and it would do best to remember that.

Sarge said...

"So, I can't help but think that government should simply try to accommodate as many people as it can."

That's absolutely hilarious. You realize that "Majoritarianism" (picking the largest group and only accommodating them) and "trying to accomodate as many people as we can" are to diametrically opposing philosophies? P

Matt said...

It never fails to amaze me how different our American neighbours are politically and socially.

The fact that a federal act stood until 2011 discriminating against certain people under the guise of "protecting" the "sanctity" of marriage or even the fact that gay marriage is such a contentious political issue is just... so alien.

Aren't there more important social issues that the US government and the American people have to deal with?

TheAlmightyNarf said...
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TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Joe

I wasn't aware anyone was doing opinion polling in the late 1700s.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Sarge

Ok, legal precedent is obviously a fundamental part of how our government works and there's nothing inherently wrong with it in and of itself. However, what I'm against is the idea that a branch of government can use precedent as a tool to simply seize wide reaching uninhibited legal powers without any regard for the constitution as the Supreme Court did with judicial review. No, they way they went about it wasn't necessarily unconstitutional, but I feel that the outcome was.

"Majoritarianism" is unfortunately often used as a tool to defend whatever opinion happens to be popular at the time (and, not all to infrequently, to defend positions that aren't actually that popular). I recall last year how one of the biggest defenses for the health-care bill was "most Americans want it to pass". That's not really majoritarianism, though, because if it wasn't as popular the very same people would be saying "Americans don't know any better and we should do it for their own good".

And, let's be completely frank here... racists don't need to be in the majority to defend their racism. They'll use majoritarianism as a tool if it happens to be there, but they'll be just as racist with out it. I recall there being more than a couple European colonies where whites were in the minority and used the "we need to do it for their own good" mentality to defend racist legislation.

So, yes, "majoritarianism" can be abused, obviously. But, I'm not convinced it lends itself any more to abuse then more tempered democracy does.

@ Sarge again

Majoritarianism doesn't "pick" anything. It put's issues to popular vote not unlike what we do now. The only difference is that it removes any restrictions on the vote.

Sarge said...

If judicial review is unconstitutional, what is the point of the Supreme Court?

And you're misunderstanding majoritarianism -- badly. If you want to argue that the majority is inherently deserving of a "degree of primacy," then you are, to put it simply, an enemy of equal rights. If that doesn't describe you, use a different goddamn word.

And please learn the difference between a "legal" question and a "political" question, as well as the difference between a single argument and an over-arching philosophy.

TheAlmightyNarf said...

@ Sarge

The role of the Supreme court, as I see it, is to interpret and apply the law as it exist. No different from any other court, except that the are the final authority.

rule by a majority, especially the belief that those constituting a simple majority should make the rules for all members of a group, nation, etc. (

the philosophy or practice according to which decisions of an organized group should be made by a numerical majority of its members (

I don't misunderstand majoritarianism, and Google search for "degree of primacy" says you should stop using Wikipedia. I don't assert that the "majority" constitutes anything other than whoever happens to hold majority on an issue.

I admit my argument may be a tad jumbly. If you could clarify that a bit, I'd appreciate it.

Rhino of Steel said...

Not to burst anyone's bubble but the Obama administration is not going to defend section 3 of DOMA only in the Second Circuit. To quote your AG Eric Holder, this is because it "has no established or binding standard for how laws concerning sexual orientation should be treated" unlike the other circuit courts. This allows the cases (two currently) to be judged on strict scrutiny while in other circuit courts there is already a precedent that laws singling out people based on sexual orientation are constitutional if there is a rational basis for them. If that sounds like legal hairsplitting that's because it is.

So in the two current cases, the DOJ will not be actively defending, though members of congress may defend it and almost certainly will. It would be a huge PR boost among the part of your population that hates gay people for whatever reason. If, however, a case comes up in another circuit then the DOJ will defend it.

Jonathan said...

I probably will regret posting this, as it is rather late, but I just finished listening to the February 25th broadcast of the Mark Levin show, where he talked about what Obama choose to do with DOMA at length. Yeah, Mark makes Hannity and Beck sound, eh, more civilized by comparison, but I suggest trying to endure listening to him anyways. There is also this.

You label as this as a symbolic measure, but it sounds like srs bsns from this side of the "craven scumbag" fence.

Requisite "rare-metals spokesperson" disclaimer for those who feel, uh, compelled to listen to a full show of Mark Levin. I think Gold will drop to $300/oz before this decade is out.

ps, I am still surprised, as a religious nutcase, that I have yet to hear any jokes about gay marriage and abstinence.