On Wednesday, President Barack Obama called the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the federal recognition of gay marriage, unconstitutional. He instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending it in courts.
The legal shift, however, does not overturn DOMA — rather, it signals a potential end to its enforcement.
Like many on campus, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Center director Bob Schoenberg was “enthusiastic” about the notable policy shift and “hopes that it is good news for future developments in the world of same-sex marriage.”
Citing a survey done at the University of California, Los Angeles, Schoenberg said it is “estimated that more than 70 percent of college freshmen nationally favor freedom to marry,” and he anticipates that public opinion will continue to evolve in this direction, eventually exceeding this percentage.
The White House’s public statement is timely, as “the courts have increasingly struck down denials of same-sex marriage,” Political Science professor Rogers Smith said, referring to court cases in California and Iowa last year that overturned anti-gay marriage laws.
According to Smith, “Obama has been persuaded that there is judicial precedence and growing political support for same-sex marriage,” and thus it would be irrational for the Justice Department to be in opposition to its recognition.
College Republicans President and Engineering junior Peter Terpeluk called Obama’s radical shift “an example of political expediency” that was “fishy” in its abruptness. He felt that it was a combination of concerns over poll numbers and attractiveness to the liberal base that influenced Obama’s decision, “more so than commitment to the Constitution.”
College freshman Dudley Charles is “thrilled” about Obama’s new position. However, he’d like to see him “take a more active approach” and still finds it “disconcerting that the Obama administration has in fact gone to support DOMA in the past.”
Alex Golub, a College freshman, was also pleased that Obama “is finally taking a position on this issue since he advertised support for gay rights in his campaign.”
If the Defense of Marriage Act was overturned and a same-sex couple moved into a state that did not recognize gay marriage, they would be able to sue for recognition of their marital rights, Smith explained.
After Obama’s announcement, state courts that deem same-sex marriage unconstitutional will do so knowing that they oppose the opinion of the Justice Department of the United States.
Obama’s decision will “give weight to the issue,” said Smith, who expects that there will soon be challenges to DOMA.
He predicted that some states that have always been anti-gay marriage “will surely refuse to recognize same-sex marriage and will cite DOMA.”
However, if a decision is appealed, the U.S. Supreme Court will have to grapple with — and possibly overturn — DOMA.
In light of Obama’s decision, Terpeluk was most concerned that Democrats are using this issue as “a platform to say that Republicans are anti-gay,” if they don’t agree with the policy shift. But according to Terpeluk, “this is not a gay issue,” but rather about “preserving the family.”
Schoenberg is hopeful that the combination of “Obama’s opinion and the power of the Department of Justice will be used to eliminate federal discrimination against same sex marriage — and, in other words, to repeal DOMA.”
This shift in policy represents “one less barrier to get equal representation in the eyes of the law,” Charles said. Note: This article was updated from its original version to clarify that the survey cited by Schoenberg was done at UCLA and that he commented on the repeal of DOMA, rather than its appeal.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.