Nel's New Day

April 21, 2011

Defense of Marriage for All

According to the conservatives, America is very poor, on the verge of being broke. But U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (pronounced “Baynor” and not how it looks phonetically) has decided to spend taxpayers’ money on his personal issue–The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Incensed because the Department of Justice (DOJ) is not defending the law before the U.S. Supreme Court, he has managed to pass a bill that will hire former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement and the King & Spalding law firm to defend the 1996 law that defines and recognizes marriage only as the legal union between a man and a woman. And he wants to take money from the DOJ to pay for his decision to fight at least eleven cases surrounding this issue.

When former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked the amount of this expenditure, Boehner didn’t answer. But the contract with the law firm shows that he is getting a discount for their services, $520 per hour instead of the usual $1000. According to the contract, the cap for the cost approved by House Republicans is $500,000 but can be raised “by written agreement between the parties with the approval” of the House. Compared to other government expenditures, this may seem a pittance, but a women who has been denied WIC monies for her starving child will think differently.

Although King & Spalding’s policies indicate its support for diversity, the conservative Focus on the Family is extremely pleased by the choice. They believe Clement has an excellent chance of winning the case before the Supreme Court. They might be able to show this chart to reveal the dangers of legalized same-sex marriage.

Currently Congress is moving forward with The Respect for Marriage Act to repeal DOMA. Sen. Herb Kohl (WI) has become the tenth and final senator necessary to move S.598 out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Maybe there is hope for Wisconsin!)

Update 4/22/11:  All of King & Spalding’s employees – lawyers and non-lawyers – are barred from advocating for the Respect for Marriage Act – the bill that would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act – in the 112th Congress, according to the terms of the contract to defend DOMA that King & Spalding partner Paul Clement signed on the firm’s behalf on April 14. In 2010 King & Spalding had more than 800 lawyers and offices worldwide.

An excellent book about same-sex marriage that disproves many of the negative myths about it is M.V. Lee Badgett’s When Gay People Get Married:  What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage (NYU, 2010).  A blend of personal stories from couples in the Netherlands and extensive data from several countries surrounding the issue of gender-neutral marriage, this provides political, social, and personal stakes in the fluid shifting of legally recognizing gay and lesbian couples. She discusses issues that I had not considered, such as the increased monogamy resulting from gay marriage decreasing the incidence of venereal disease. According to her research, more people get married in theU.S. than inEurope to obtain their health care situation and support their religious viewpoint. The Netherlands has a four-tiered system:  1) living alone; 2) living with someone else without written agreement which gives them certain rights; 3) partners; and 4) marriage.  The research also shows that marriage has not destroyed the institution of marriage.

On another subject, the White house has begun circulating a draft executive order that would require companies seeking government contracts to disclose contributions—including the secret ones—to groups that air political ads attacking or support candidates. This is its answer to the U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to donate unlimited monies anonymously to candidates. The Koch-owned companies may be impacted by such an order.

Progressives also need your help in supporting the new version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)—HR 1397—and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Mark Kirk (R-IL)—S. 811, the bill would make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote an employee based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Currently, it is legal to fire someone because of their sexual orientation in 29 states, and it is legal to fire someone because of their gender identity in 38 states. PFLAG encourages everyone to contact their representatives and senators to educate them about the importance of passing this bill.

Tomorrow’s blog for Earth Day will be cheerier!

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