July 1, 2013
My hero Amherst Professor Hadley Arkes has provided a powerful analysis of the Supreme Court’s latest exercise in raw judicial power. Hadley gave strong testimony for the Defense of Marriage Act when it came before the Congress in 1996. He approvingly cites Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent.
Proponents of the Defense of Marriage Act are no more moved by animus against homosexuals than adherents of the U.S. Constitution are moved by hatred of other countries’ constitutions, argues Justice Scalia. He’s right. I can smile on the British monarchy, for example, while resolutely forswearing all allegiance to any foreign prince or potentate.
I had the honor of working as a policy analyst at Family Research Council in 1996 when the Defense of Marriage Act was being drafted and shepherded through Congress. My role was quite limited. Senior Analyst Bob Knight led the effort within our office. Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.) was our chief sponsor.
A technical question came to FRC from the Hill. Our good friends on Sen. Nickles’s staff asked us if we might agree to re-naming the draft legislation “the Definition of Marriage Act”?
I was adamant. NO. The reason was that the name of the law must educate Americans and contain the rationale for the law. Americans needed to know that marriage itself is under assault. American citizens needed to know that those in Congress who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act were actually voting against the institution of marriage.
Serving in the Reagan administration, I had learned valuable lessons from our leader. He would regularly defend the right to life of unborn children in his State of the Union Addresses. He knew that millions of Americans who paid little attention to politics would be watching this one night of the year. So President Reagan would describe abortion as “a wound in the soul of America.”
The news media sneered. Their cameras panned the grim-faced, black-robed Justices of the Supreme Court. They showed the jowly images of Ted Kennedy and Chris Dodd and the ever-grinning Joe Biden. Few of the Justices and none of those senators would extend any mercy to unborn children. But President Reagan spoke over their heads, to the hearts of the American people.
We have never had a president since who would defend marriage that way. It was my earnest hope that the name of the law would help Americans understand that their own cherished institution of marriage was in danger.
Why should marriage itself be in danger? Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was as offended by the title of the law as most liberals. He despised the Defense of Marriage Act. “I don’t understand how your marriage is affected if I marry Herb Moses,” he challenged Bob Knight on camera.
The answer was provided by Hollywood star years ago. Mae West was a woman so famously endowed that her name was given to sailors’ life jackets in World War II. She said: “Marriage is a great institution. I’m just not ready for an institution.” Mae West understood marriage better than Barney Frank did.
Marriage is not only your marriage and my marriage. It is a social institution. It has been part of the natural order of human beings for the care and protection of children. Marriage as an institution needs protection.
As Hadley points out in his column for the website Right Reason, there is now no principled basis for authorities to say he cannot marry his sons. Far-fetched? Men marrying men and women marrying women was far-fetched in 1980, 1990.
Boosted by challenges to true marriage in the 1990s, FRC worked hard to gain passage of the Defense of Marriage Act. So broad was the support for this measure that we could have passed it in Congress without a single Republican vote. The bill passed the House of Representatives 342-67 and the Senate 85-14. President Clinton saw we had the votes to override his veto in both houses.
Clinton’s press spokesman snarled that the bill was “mean spirited,” but his boss nonetheless signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law. And then, in that election year, he shamelessly took out ads on Christian radio stations bragging that he had signed it.
Still, we had the Defense of Marriage Act in law. And with that law, FRC helped in thirty-two states where marriage was being threatened. We joined in a broad coalition and had a string of successes until 2012. Just last year, in four liberal states, the Democratic Party machine fully engaged to re-elect President Obama and to overturn true marriage.
Marriage is in danger from academics and activists. GWU Law Professor Jonathan Turley told an overflow crowd at the Newseum in 2008 that opponents of his idea of same-sex couplings say it will lead to polygamy. “Well, I’m for that!” For his boldness, Turley was rapturously applauded by the liberal audience of federal law clerks, congressional staffers, journalists, and graduate students.
Every argument for same-sex couplings is an argument for polygamy. And what if the two men who seek to marry are brothers? Twin brothers announced on TV talk show that they were homosexual. May they marry? If not, why not?
President Obama has given a key appointment to Georgetown University Professor Chai Feldblum. She famously argues that any clash between religious freedom, which is protected by the Constitution, and her demands for homosexual rights must be resolved in favor of the homosexual position.
She helped draft the radical statement “Beyond Marriage” (www.beyondmarriage.org) This document argues that any number of adults may contract to raise any number of children.
That, of course, spells the end of marriage in America. It’s what they want. It’s what they demand. It’s why we passed the Defense of Marriage Act.