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Defend It Yourself
February 23, 2011 9:59 AM   Subscribe

Obama Justice Department Finds DOMA Unconstitutional, Will Not Defend in Court The Justice Department just today sent a letter to John Boehner and other house leaders informing them of the decision. Here is the DOJ's official statement on the decision.
posted by saulgoodman (340 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
Funny, I've been repeatedly told he was required to defend stuff like this, what changed?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:00 AM on February 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


A first step in a long overdue process.
posted by msbutah at 10:00 AM on February 23, 2011


Funny, I've been repeatedly told he was required to defend stuff like this, what changed?

Clearly you didn't RTFA in the one minute between the OP and your comment.
posted by schoolgirl report at 10:01 AM on February 23, 2011 [53 favorites]


It's about damned time.

You would think that undoing codified discrimination against US citizens would have been one of the Obama administration's top priorities. What the hell took them so long?
posted by zarq at 10:02 AM on February 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Good.
posted by odinsdream at 10:02 AM on February 23, 2011


That rocks harder than Kiss rocking their rockingest in rocking chairs atop a big rock surrounded by other big rocks while having rocks thrown at them.

Now we have to hope the Republicans wanna rock. I have a feeling they won't.
posted by Windigo at 10:02 AM on February 23, 2011 [21 favorites]


Love that the timing means the letter's addressed to Boehner.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:02 AM on February 23, 2011


Heh, I wonder of Boehner will congratulate him on saving tax payer dollars by not defending DOMA.
posted by iamabot at 10:04 AM on February 23, 2011 [22 favorites]


I've been repeatedly told he was required to defend stuff like this, what changed?


From the article:
Section 3 of DOMA has now been challenged in the Second Circuit, however, which has no established or binding standard for how laws concerning sexual orientation should be treated. In these cases, the Administration faces for the first time the question of whether laws regarding sexual orientation are subject to the more permissive standard of review or whether a more rigorous standard, under which laws targeting minority groups with a history of discrimination are viewed with suspicion by the courts, should apply.

After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases. I fully concur with the President’s determination.
Which is to say, there's a process, and the government needs to enforce the law until such time as it can be challenged and overturned.

Imperfect, but better than a lot of the alternatives.
posted by mhoye at 10:04 AM on February 23, 2011 [23 favorites]


Holy crap, My Aunt is a binational same sex couple. Her wife can't live in the US because of DOMA. It leaves them in an awful balancing act. This is a big step.
posted by Felex at 10:04 AM on February 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


Anyone else get the feeling that this is all part of the plan? That maybe, just maybe, all these anti-gay-marriage legislations across the country will soon by dismantled and put away, but that Obama has been working on an iron-clad legal argument against such a prohibition?

Because that's what it looks like to me.
posted by grubi at 10:05 AM on February 23, 2011 [40 favorites]


For reference: the text of DOMA Section 3:

Section 3. Definition of 'marriage' and 'spouse':

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.
posted by hippybear at 10:05 AM on February 23, 2011


Niiiiiice. Saved to pep up the crowd in time for 2012?
posted by jaduncan at 10:06 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


(and to be clear, I think this is an awesome move in any case and I am pepped).
posted by jaduncan at 10:07 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Score one for the side of Good.
posted by emjaybee at 10:07 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


OH YES
posted by louche mustachio at 10:07 AM on February 23, 2011


Anyone else get the feeling that this is all part of the plan? That maybe, just maybe, all these anti-gay-marriage legislations across the country will soon by dismantled and put away, but that Obama has been working on an iron-clad legal argument against such a prohibition?

Because that's what it looks like to me.


Exactly. Sucks that it took the Adminstration this long, but here it is at long last.
posted by The Michael The at 10:07 AM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anyone else get the feeling that this is all part of the plan? That maybe, just maybe, all these anti-gay-marriage legislations across the country will soon by dismantled and put away, but that Obama has been working on an iron-clad legal argument against such a prohibition?

Maybe, but I really want a thunderdome/steel cage match, with the GOP beaten and bloodied and then its carcass thrown to the audience to tear apart with wild glee while a million voices on the ultra right cry out in pain in torment from their telepathic link.

But I suppose there's laws against that sort of thing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:07 AM on February 23, 2011 [28 favorites]


Thank goodness those recent lawsuits have finally pointed out the glaringly obvious.
posted by Hoopo at 10:08 AM on February 23, 2011


Waiting to see how the Obama haters on the left here react to this. I'm sure it'll be something about how he was forced to this and is still a secret bigot at heart.
posted by empath at 10:08 AM on February 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Anyone else get the feeling that this is all part of the plan? That maybe, just maybe, all these anti-gay-marriage legislations across the country will soon by dismantled and put away, but that Obama has been working on an iron-clad legal argument against such a prohibition?

Here's to hoping you're right.
posted by iamabot at 10:08 AM on February 23, 2011


But I suppose there's laws against that sort of thing.

Eric Holder's next project?
posted by The Michael The at 10:09 AM on February 23, 2011


Sigh, not so fast on the no enforcement. From the AG's letter: Section 3 of DOMA will continue to remain in effect unless Congress repeals it or there is a final judicial finding that strikes it down, and the President has informed me that the Executive Branch will continue to enforce the law. But certainly a step in the right direction.
posted by Runes at 10:10 AM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Waiting to see how the Obama haters on the left here react to this. I'm sure it'll be something about how he was forced to this and is still a secret bigot at heart.

Apparently it's a cynical election-year ploy. The fact that this announcement is coming nowhere near an election year obviously doesn't factor into that.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:11 AM on February 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Note that this announcement leaves in place section 2 of DOMA, which allows states that do not perform same-sex marriages to deny recognition to SSM performed in jurisdictions where it is legal. I'm assuming that the DOJ will still defend this part of the law? Disappointing if true, but this is a welcome first step.
posted by thewittyname at 10:11 AM on February 23, 2011


Empath...I don't know any Obama haters on the left. I know a lot of people angry about repeated capitulations and being told that their demands are less important than pleasing nonexistent allies on the Republican side. But that's different.

However, this thing here is good, and as a frequent Obama critic, I have no problem with him taking credit for it.

Critiquing your chosen party's leaders is not an either/or situation, you know; it's quite possible to be for someone and still find their performance or decisions lacking in some way.
posted by emjaybee at 10:12 AM on February 23, 2011 [27 favorites]


Anyone else get the feeling that this is all part of the plan? That maybe, just maybe, all these anti-gay-marriage legislations across the country will soon by dismantled and put away, but that Obama has been working on an iron-clad legal argument against such a prohibition?

Because that's what it looks like to me.

Exactly. Sucks that it took the Adminstration this long, but here it is at long last.


In my opinion, the legal argument gets stronger as time passes and same-sex marriage becomes more and more entrenched as a bona fide form of marriage (in the legal sense) in various U.S. jurisdictions. To the extent that there is such a thing as an "iron-clad legal argument" (there's not), the passage of time is the key ingredient to creating one in the area of same-sex marriage. The argument based on constitutional rights to marriage only works if the same-sex marriage is not only qualitatively but also legally indistinguishable from opposite-sex marriage. That was the conspicuous flaw in the California Prop 8 district court opinion and Obama is in the process of using the passage of time and the evolution of legislation across the country to fill that gap.
posted by The World Famous at 10:12 AM on February 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


The fact that this announcement is coming nowhere near an election year obviously doesn't factor into that.

---

President Barack Obama is shifting senior White House staffers to his hometown of Chicago and opening a campaign headquarters there as he steps up preparations for the formal launch of his re-election bid this spring.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:14 AM on February 23, 2011


Nice that he sent a letter. What are we gonna DO about it?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:15 AM on February 23, 2011



Funny, I've been repeatedly told he was required to defend stuff like this, what changed?

Clearly you didn't RTFA in the one minute between the OP and your comment.


Are you under the impression this is the only news site on the Internet?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:16 AM on February 23, 2011


Waiting to see how the Obama haters on the left here react to this. I'm sure it'll be something about how he was forced to this and is still a secret bigot at heart.

You're sure, are you? The fact that this hadn't happened yet is one of the reasons that some on the left started disliking Obama... doesn't mean he can't get on the right track, though. The timing might be necessary when you're actually trying to get things done from the WH.

Guantanamo next, please.
posted by Huck500 at 10:16 AM on February 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


What's interesting about this is the justification that the DOJ is unable to further defend it because they have concluded that under heightened scrutiny there aren't any good arguments to be made to defend the law, but under rational basis there WERE arguments to be made. I have not seen any rational basis arguments that make even a tiny whit of sense, and the judge in the Prop 8 case in California systematically and ruthlessly demolished all of the supposed rational bases for upholding that law last year; why was THAT the reason that the DOJ switched position?

Regardless of the reason, I welcome the change and hope (like I have for years) that Section 2 is found unconstitutional or repealed too.
posted by norm at 10:16 AM on February 23, 2011


I'm really not legally minded, but I could easily see where this is going to be a multi-stage process.

1) Defend law in court until sufficient cases have been brought to provide basis for saying it's not going to work.

2) Pick the most broad, discriminatory section of the law and refuse to defend that in court until it's clear that it won't stand.

3) On the basis of that section now being defunct, the door is open to work to get rid of the rest of the law.

I guess my brain is working like this: Once you've gotten rid of the section of DOMA which states that only man/woman marriages are recognized under the language of the law, then it's easier to work on the section which allows states to restrict same-sex marriages, because now those which have been performed legally in states which allow it CAN be recognized as even existing by the Federal courts.

At least, that's how my little brain sees this playing out.
posted by hippybear at 10:16 AM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


"The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA ... is therefore unconstitutional," Holder said.

Umm, dude? Pretty sure that's not in your job description. I think that belongs over here.

The last guy made signing statements about which parts of the law he was going to ignore. We hated that, too.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:16 AM on February 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thank you Mr. Obama, took you long enough.

And for everyone who whines about queer liberals like me sometimes questioning our fearless leader's motivations, call me when his position on marriage equality has fully "evolved".
posted by lydhre at 10:19 AM on February 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


A-B-C. A-always, B-be, C-campaigning. Always be campaigning! AlWAYS BE CAMPAIGNING!!

you see this watch?!
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:19 AM on February 23, 2011 [15 favorites]


The last guy made signing statements about which parts of the law he was going to ignore. We hated that, too.

Yes. There's an important difference between the DOJ expressing a legal opinion and the executive refusing to enforce, though. You'll note that the letter expressly states that the law of the land is currently still the same.

These are fundamentally different things and seperation of powers has not been violated here.
posted by jaduncan at 10:19 AM on February 23, 2011 [23 favorites]


*keels over*
posted by rtha at 10:19 AM on February 23, 2011


*keels over*

But keeling over from the awesome for once is a lot nicer, right? :)
posted by jaduncan at 10:20 AM on February 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Felex: Clearly your aunt made a terrible mistake in falling in love with a dirty furrinner lesbian instead of a fine upstanding 'murrican lesbian. Why does your aunt love lesbian terrorists?
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:22 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Small steps.

Tiny little steps.

Itty-bitty, eensy-weensy steps.

I wish I could get excited, but I've been burned too many times before. I'll keep making phone calls and signing petitions, and I'm not buying any champagne until we all have something to celebrate.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the Old Line State, too.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:22 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Waiting to see how the Obama haters on the left here react to this. I'm sure it'll be something about how he was forced to this and is still a secret bigot at heart.

Quick American Left, you may have a small victory but if you race to your circular guns fast enough we can snatch defeat from its jaws!
posted by DU at 10:24 AM on February 23, 2011 [20 favorites]


There's an important difference between the DOJ expressing a legal opinion and the executive refusing to enforce, though.

Indeed. But regardless of which side of the issue you agree with, consider that there's a massive perceptual difference between "before we do anything more, we think the legislature and judicial branch need to sort this out" and "I've concluded that it's unconstitutional."

This is exactly the kind of move that makes Obama look tone-deaf.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:25 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Funny, I've been repeatedly told he was required to defend stuff like this, what changed?

Says can't defend under potential heightened scrutiny standard in Second Circuit.

But I feel like he should defend and then repeal.

Otherwise, when GOP gets in they can just throw everything out the window, Miranda, Abortion Clinic Defense, you got it.

But if it goes out this way, I won't exactly sob! I will just fear that they will do much worse when they get in.

Note this doesn't cover the rest of the statute, just one part. So a state's refusal to accept a gay marriage will still be legal. Although you'd think the Full Faith and Credit Clause would wipe that one out in a second, as it did under Loving.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:25 AM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Point of clarification: Given the decision affects Section 3 and not Section 2, is the effective change brought about by this decision that same sex spouses can apply for citizenship via the spouse of a citizen route? Does anything else happen here?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:25 AM on February 23, 2011


Obama was forced to do this. I'm sure he's still a secret bigot at heart.
posted by pwally at 10:26 AM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Point of clarification: Given the decision affects Section 3 and not Section 2, is the effective change brought about by this decision that same sex spouses can apply for citizenship via the spouse of a citizen route? Does anything else happen here?

There is no effective change until a court rules it unconstitutional. But if it did, would affect pensions, and other federal benefits.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:27 AM on February 23, 2011


Oh shit. I'm so cliche.
posted by pwally at 10:27 AM on February 23, 2011


Progress and Civil Rights march slowly onward, and hateful bigots on the Right are swept that much closer to the dust heap of history. This is awesome. I know we're a little late in the week, but I'm down for hugs any time.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:27 AM on February 23, 2011


Lets complain about how this is terrible!

Oh, I see that base is covered.

Hows handing congress over to the republicans as a means of furthering liberal causes going for you guys?
posted by Artw at 10:28 AM on February 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Note this doesn't cover the rest of the statute, just one part. So a state's refusal to accept a gay marriage will still be legal. Although you'd think the Full Faith and Credit Clause would wipe that one out in a second, as it did under Loving.

Ssh. That would be Step 2.
posted by jaduncan at 10:28 AM on February 23, 2011


Irrespective of the merits of this specific case, do we really want to give the President unlimited ability to decide which laws to enforce and which to ignore?

Perhaps you like this particular example, but consider how this precedent could be abused the next time that the President is not a liberal Democrat. (The pendulum swings, and eventually that will happen.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:29 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


l33tpolicywonk, this announcement allows for federal recognition of SSM marriages performed in states where it is legal. This will allow same-sex couples the ability to file federal taxes as spouses and receive spousal Social Security benefits, among other things. It will probably also affect the ability to receive their spouse's health insurance under the new health care laws, but I don't know for sure.
posted by thewittyname at 10:29 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you under the impression this is the only news site on the Internet?

So were are to conclude you read the news elsewhere and yet still posted a willfully ignorant statement here. Duly noted.
posted by schoolgirl report at 10:29 AM on February 23, 2011


Irrespective of the merits of this specific case, do we really want to give the President unlimited ability to decide which laws to enforce and which to ignore?

That is not what has happened here.
posted by jaduncan at 10:30 AM on February 23, 2011 [19 favorites]


Hows handing congress over to the republicans as a means of furthering liberal causes going for you guys?

When you're already deep in a hole, look for a ladder, not a shovel.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:31 AM on February 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Irrespective of the merits of this specific case, do we really want to give the President unlimited ability to decide which laws to enforce and which to ignore?

He's continuing to enforce the law unless and until a court overturns it. He's just not going to defend it in court. That's a big difference between breaking the law and daring the courts to stop you, which is what bush did.
posted by empath at 10:32 AM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's the immediate practical effect of this change:
-The Defense of Marriage Act remains in effect unless a federal court strikes it down or Congress repeals it.

-The government will stop defending the law in two court cases, in New York and Connecticut, where the law has been challenged, and in any other cases challenging the law.

-If the law is to be defended, members of Congress would have to step up and join those lawsuits.
posted by ericb at 10:32 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


l33tpolicywonk, this announcement allows for federal recognition of SSM marriages performed in states where it is legal. This will allow same-sex couples the ability to file federal taxes as spouses and receive spousal Social Security benefits, among other things. It will probably also affect the ability to receive their spouse's health insurance under the new health care laws, but I don't know for sure.

I do not believe this is true. It merely applies to the Administrations position on the matter in court. The statute is still in force.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:32 AM on February 23, 2011


The remainder of the problem is left as an exercise for the student.

President Barack Obama is shifting senior White House staffers to his hometown of Chicago and opening a campaign headquarters there as he steps up preparations for the formal launch of his re-election bid this spring.

So Obama is bad if he's trying to shore up support among his base by making progress on promises he made? Unless you were simply pointing out an obvious fact rather than criticizing, you lost me. I thought representing the views of your constituents was the core tenet of democracy.

OF COURSE it's politically motivated. Every move a politician makes (outside of poorly thought out Craigslist postings) is election oriented. That's how the system works, IIRC.
posted by dust of the stars at 10:33 AM on February 23, 2011


thewittyname: "This will allow same-sex couples the ability to file federal taxes as spouses and receive spousal Social Security benefits, among other things."

So, this may be an unanswerable question, but what happens if same sex spouses are eligible to file jointly for federal purposes but not eligible to file jointly for state purposes?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:33 AM on February 23, 2011


Yeah, I think the link headline in this FPP is poorly worded and misleading. There is nothing said about suspending enforcement in the DOJ letter. In fact, it explicitly says the opposite of that. It simply states that the DOJ will not be actively defending it in court due to applying heightened scrutiny rather than rational basis.

Sometimes it's better to use the actual headline from the piece you're linking rather than coming up with your own wording.
posted by hippybear at 10:34 AM on February 23, 2011


do not believe this is true. It merely applies to the Administrations position on the matter in court. The statute is still in force.

I understand that, but the question implied what would happen if Section 3 was struck down as unconstitutional.
posted by thewittyname at 10:34 AM on February 23, 2011


Irrespective of the merits of this specific case, do we really want to give the President unlimited ability to decide which laws to enforce and which to ignore?

That is not what has happened here.


Actually, it is. Its a problem. It sets precedent for other Presidents to say there is no need to enforce Miranda and to not defend it in court. It opens a door I don't want opened.

The issue of defending laws an Administration disagrees with is complicated and has a long history. It is not as easily dismissed as you say here.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:35 AM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]





Hows handing congress over to the republicans as a means of furthering liberal causes going for you guys?


How's abject surrender on major issues going for you guys and your plan to end Guantanamo or the Bush tax cuts?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:37 AM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


For white dudes, it must just be intensely morally satisfying to find opportunities to call our first black president a bigot. White dudes from Glenn Beck to Glenn Greenwald just seem to find doing this irresistible. The allure of it must be pretty damn powerful to make it worth facing the overwhelming risk of absurdity.

Ach, hippybear you are right. The "enforcement" language is ambiguous at best, misleading at worst. But not defending the law in court is effectively the same as not enforcing it, isn't it?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:38 AM on February 23, 2011


Hows handing congress over to the republicans as a means of furthering liberal causes going for you guys?

Yeah, those gay voters (3% of the electorate) are really swinging the election! And not regular old bigoted straight voters!
posted by muddgirl at 10:38 AM on February 23, 2011


So, this may be an unanswerable question, but what happens if same sex spouses are eligible to file jointly for federal purposes but not eligible to file jointly for state purposes?

The couples would have to file as individuals on their state forms. Since many states use federal AGI/MAGI numbers as the basis of their forms, there may be technical problems with filing separately using joint AGI/MAGIs, but this could be addressed at the state level. Honestly, it would be the exact opposite of what occurs today in states where SSM is legal. For example, in Massachusetts, a gay couple can file jointly on their state taxes, but must file separately for federal taxes.
posted by thewittyname at 10:39 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


OK, relevant section of the letter here (page 5)

"Notwithstanding this determination, the President has informed me that Section 3 will continue to be enforced by the Executive Branch. To that end, the President has instructed Executive agencies to continue to comply with Section 3 of DOMA, consistent with the Executive's obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, unless and until Congress repeals Section 3 or the judicial branch renders a definitive verdict against the law's constitutionality. This course of action respects the actions of the prior Congress that enacted DOMA, and it recognizes the judiciary as the final arbiter of the constitutional claims raised."

This is not a signing statement. It is not even vaguely the same as a signing statement. The rights of the legislature and the judiciary are explicitly noted. That is all. They are doing what they can do, and no more.

The law will still be enforced.
posted by jaduncan at 10:40 AM on February 23, 2011


But not defending the law in court is effectively the same as not enforcing it, isn't it?

No, DOMA stays in effect until a court strikes it down. Realistically, DOMA will stand until the Supreme Court rules on this issue, likely next year. A new plaintiff, likely some member of Congress, will step in to defend the law in court.
posted by thewittyname at 10:40 AM on February 23, 2011


call me when his position on marriage equality has fully "evolved".

Better evolving than devolving. Exhibit A: Republican-controlled House where 225 of the members are now (according to the HRC) anti-gay, up from 172 in the prior Congress.

Call me when that's a better state of affairs to be faced with.
posted by blucevalo at 10:40 AM on February 23, 2011


Good. About fucking time.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:41 AM on February 23, 2011



Are you under the impression this is the only news site on the Internet?

So were are to conclude you read the news elsewhere and yet still posted a willfully ignorant statement here. Duly noted.


Obama Justice Department Finds DOMA Unconstitutional

The articles establish that no, they are simply not defending one section of it in certain jurisdictions.

stops enforcement.

The articles establish they are not.

I know I can get in trouble with sarcasm, but don't tell me to RTFA until you do, the headline is bunk.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:42 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hows handing congress over to the republicans as a means of furthering liberal causes going for you guys?

How's that plan to keep being so much of a dick that it will actually create the time vortex needed to reverse the rapid decline in youth voter enthusiasm in 2010 going for you guys?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:44 AM on February 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


How's that plan to keep being so much of a dick that it will actually create the time vortex needed to reverse the rapid decline in youth voter enthusiasm in 2010 going for you guys?

The difference between the youth vote and the GOP vote is the the GOP vote doesn't need their fucking hand held to do their job and vote as citizens.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:47 AM on February 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, I've acknowledged that furiousxgeorge. They only "Suspended Enforcement" in the sense that the DOJ won't be defending the law in court anymore, which a lot of people have been criticizing them for doing for a while now.

Any chance a mod could change the wording from "Suspends Enforcement" to "Will Not Defend it in Court"?
posted by saulgoodman at 10:47 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


If a member of congress has to step in as plaintiff, do they have to fund the defense themselves?
posted by Aizkolari at 10:47 AM on February 23, 2011


I like it when MeFites blame each other for election outcomes and voter enthusiasm. It makes me feel powerful.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:49 AM on February 23, 2011 [12 favorites]


The difference between the youth vote and the GOP vote is the the GOP vote doesn't need their fucking hand held to do their job and vote as citizens.

Fox News is a pretty large set of hands for holding.
posted by muddgirl at 10:50 AM on February 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


Better evolving than devolving. Exhibit A: Republican-controlled House where 225 of the members are now (according to the HRC) anti-gay, up from 172 in the prior Congress.

Wait, I'm sorry. I didn't know I wasn't supposed to expect more from a self-titled LGBT ally who actively campaigned for my vote.

Fuck that noise.
posted by lydhre at 10:50 AM on February 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


WOOHOO! Oh man, it's nice to see some good news around here.
posted by honeydew at 10:51 AM on February 23, 2011


This is a good start, and little more. We really, really, really need a viable left in this country. Like one that isn't center-right everywhere else.
posted by nevercalm at 10:52 AM on February 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I didn't know I wasn't supposed to expect more

You certainly can and should. But don't fool yourself that the opposition isn't MUCH, MUCH worse on this issue. The Democrats have been taking baby steps when they should have been leaping forward, but the Republicans have the issue hooked up to a tractor ready to drag it back 100 years.

(ok I think that analogy needs some work, but you know...)
posted by wildcrdj at 10:54 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Essentially, the same centrist Dems who lionize the Clintons want us to trust them to handle gay rights. It's too bad the name Clinton is signed at the bottom of DOMA. I mean, in the right political climate they can get stuff done but they are just as likely to work against liberals when the winds shift.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:55 AM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Which is to say, there's a process, and the government needs to enforce the law until such time as it can be challenged and overturned.

This is simply false. There was nothing (except for political expediency) that required the Administration to defend DOMA in the courts up to this point. Even if there was existing precedent on the books regarding whether a rational-basis test applied to distinctions based on sexual orientation, the Administration could have easily argued that the precedent was not applicable to the classifications in the DOMA, or could have challenged the existing precedent by seeking en banc review. The Government does challenge (and has repeatedly challenged during the past two years) circuit-court precedent that it believes is wrong or unlawful.

This is a victory for everyone who opposes the DOMA. But the part about there having been a process, or the Administration's hands being tied by some legal principles before, is all bullshit. The Obama Administration ought to have been more honest about this. The President could have instructed the Department of Justice not to defend the DOMA at any time. The only thing that stopped him from doing so before now is cowardice.

Another dirty secret: The President could have ordered the generals not to enforce Don't Ask Don't Tell as soon as he came into office. President Clinton replaced the 1982 absolute ban on gays in the military by directive, no help from Congress, within a year of taking office. President Obama could have done the same thing while he was pursuing a legislative fix. He chose not to.
posted by Slap Factory at 10:56 AM on February 23, 2011 [11 favorites]


You certainly can and should. But don't fool yourself that the opposition isn't MUCH, MUCH worse on this issue.

Ok, can someone please tell me who the hell this strawperson is who thinks the Republicans are better than the Dems on queer rights? Please? Is it the same strawperson who thinks the Repubs are better than the Dems on women's rights?

Because nobody's saying that. I'm just saying the Dems sometimes aren't good enough.
posted by lydhre at 10:57 AM on February 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Which is to say, there's a process, and the government needs to enforce the law until such time as it can be challenged and overturned.

No, the government doesn't need to enforce every law. Enforcement is discretionary.

Obama took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, so if he believes a law is unconstitutional, he has an overriding responsibility not to defend that law in court. It's basic law that the Constitution trumps statutes. And the presidential oath should trump general DOJ policy. The DOJ does have a policy of defending the constitutionality of federal statutes, but Obama can deviate from this policy when appropriate, as this news shows. He should have done it sooner.

The ideas that Obama's administration was just going along with "binding" circuit law, or hadn't done a thorough enough review of the law, are transparent excuses. Obama was a top student at one of the top 2 law schools, and he taught constitutional law at one of the top 6 law schools. He is a capable enough legal thinker to have realized that DOMA is unconstitutional before the mid-term elections.
posted by John Cohen at 10:58 AM on February 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


Ironmouth: "The difference between the youth vote and the GOP vote is the the GOP vote doesn't need their fucking hand held to do their job and vote as citizens."

Please. Of course they do. They get motivated by Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin and FoxNews and their Church pastors and their politicians and a vast array of pundits on FoxNews and other stations. All of whom do their damnedest to scare the living shit out of their audiences with modern Coughlin hellfire and brimstone: that gay people are the devil, living amongst them and trying to corrupt them and their children.

Fear is a powerful motivator. There's an entire right-wing noise machine devoted to fearmongering 24/7 any possible way they can.
posted by zarq at 10:59 AM on February 23, 2011 [14 favorites]


who thinks the Republicans are better than the Dems

I'm not saying you or anyone else thinks they're better. But people are asking why they should vote for a party with such weak support (or why that party should expect their vote) and I think the answer is obvious.

So far they've extended some federal benefits, ended DADT, and now this. Baby steps, but in the right direction, with no major backsliding, just stalling.

(And honestly I am not sure this is wildly inconsistent with what I remember from the campaign, Obama never came across as a strong LGBT defender --- he's always been against gay marriage, for example, and still is)
posted by wildcrdj at 11:01 AM on February 23, 2011


So far they've extended some federal benefits

That was an unelected official, no?
posted by muddgirl at 11:04 AM on February 23, 2011


Does anyone know which are the 2 lawsuits in question that are being heard in the 2nd circuit?

Also, how exactly does this work from a procedural courtroom standpoint? I understand that it is normal for the DOJ to represent the government in cases like this. What happens when the DOJ declines to argue for the law? I know the announcement mentions that " I have informed Members of Congress of this decision, so Members who wish to defend the statute may pursue that option". How does that work? What happens if different members of Congress want to argue on different sides of the case in court or make different arguments for the same side? What happens if no one in the executive or legislative branches defends the statute in court? Is the judge obliged to only consider the arguments of the plantiffs in that case?

I know we have some lawyers on MeFi. Anyone have some answers?
posted by tdismukes at 11:05 AM on February 23, 2011


That was an unelected official, no?

I'm referring to this
posted by wildcrdj at 11:05 AM on February 23, 2011


Waiting to see how the Obama haters on the left here react to this.

As one, I suppose, of the "Obama haters on the left", I'd just like to take this opportunity to vent my spleen:

"Good job, President Obama. Keep it up!"

And now, a drink and a nap. It always takes me some time to recover after working up such virulent hate.
posted by steambadger at 11:06 AM on February 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


he's always been against gay marriage, for example, and still is)

He is secretly in favor of it. In fact, I believe it was empath of "His liberal opponents think he is a secret bigot" idiotic strawmanning above that said Obama secretly would be willing to sign gay marriage in to law.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:08 AM on February 23, 2011


I hasten to add that even if it were true that Obama/DOJ "needed" to defend DOMA -- even if this were legally required of Obama/DOJ -- then Obama/DOJ should have violated this legal requirement! It's safe to say every administration does some things that are illegal. If declining to defend DOMA were illegal at any time, in any jurisdiction, that should have been an illegal thing that the Obama administration did.

But again, this is a silly hypothetical, because it is not illegal for the Obama administration to refuse to defend the constitutionality of a statute that violates constitutional rights. Obama is not legally required to defend every federal statute from constitutional challenges. His administration chooses to do so or not do so. They should be held accountable for all of these choices. Some of them are good (like today's news) and some have been bad (previously defending DOMA and DADT in court). We shouldn't give them credit for the good choices but switch into excuse mode when they make bad choices.
posted by John Cohen at 11:11 AM on February 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Actually, it is. Its a problem. It sets precedent for other Presidents to say there is no need to enforce Miranda and to not defend it in court. It opens a door I don't want opened.

The issue of defending laws an Administration disagrees with is complicated and has a long history. It is not as easily dismissed as you say here.

You credit me with an argument I have not made.

In that they have not said they will not enforce the law (and, indeed, have expressly stated that they will), it does not create a precident to not enforce the law. Hence I disagree with the claim that it does create a precident for not enforcing the law. It might create a precident for not defencing the law (and as you note, this is more complex) but these are not two things that should be conflated due to really quite serious consitutional issues that would apply if the latter were done.
posted by jaduncan at 11:22 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


law professor nancy polikoff always has interesting things to say in the area of "marriage quality." her response is here.
posted by anya32 at 11:30 AM on February 23, 2011


*sighs* 'not making a defence of' and 'defending' got conflated on edit. Substitute your own choice.
posted by jaduncan at 11:33 AM on February 23, 2011


I like it when MeFites blame each other for election outcomes and voter enthusiasm. It makes me feel powerful.

"A certain Jew in 1938 insisted on reading Nazi newspapers. A friend scolded him: "Aren't you ashamed of yourself — why don't you read a Jewish paper?" The Jew replied: "When I do, I get depressed — they talk about poverty, death, schools without heat. But when I read the Nazi publications, I'm uplifted. They say we control everything, all the banks, all the world economies."
posted by VikingSword at 11:41 AM on February 23, 2011 [20 favorites]


Looking forward to seeing President Romney suspend enforcement of the Affordable Care Act as being unconstitutional.
posted by gyc at 11:42 AM on February 23, 2011


Can anyone comment on the history of congress being asked to defend it's own untenable laws in court? Btw, deliberative democracy would rock!
posted by jeffburdges at 11:44 AM on February 23, 2011


> Heh, I wonder of Boehner will congratulate him on saving tax payer dollars by not defending DOMA.

I think Boehner might cry.
posted by mmrtnt at 11:45 AM on February 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


You know the William S Burroughs bit that goes: Sangria Christo, Blood of Christ, rivers of blood, mountains of blood! Does Christ never get tired of bleeding?!

Yeah... I've started inserting Boehner and tears and crying into it:
Sangria Boehnero, Tears of Boehner, rivers of tears, mountains of tears! Does Boehner never get tired of crying?!

(not that Boehner is anything like Christ)
posted by edgeways at 11:51 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't this really just poking the hornets nest with a stick? Someone, somewhere will bring a lawsuit on Obama refusing to enforce this that will get standing in federal court. It will make its way up to the Supreme Court and they will have the last word on whether or not its unconstitutional. Couldn't this whole thing just be a way to get the court to make a decision on it? Especially now that perceptions on gay marriage have shifted around the country (especially since the 90s), Obama has appointed two of his own justices, and congress repealed DADT.
posted by Glibpaxman at 11:52 AM on February 23, 2011


Boehner's already unsupportive, to no one's surprise:

"While Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, the President will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation."
posted by NationalKato at 11:52 AM on February 23, 2011


"While Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, the President will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation."

Right you are, Senator. Because we all know it would be ridiculous to work on more than one thing at a time.
posted by cooker girl at 11:55 AM on February 23, 2011


"While Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, the President will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation."

!!!!!!!!!! I think a Republican just made my liberal brain explode. Seriously?
posted by muddgirl at 11:56 AM on February 23, 2011 [9 favorites]


Isn't this really just poking the hornets nest with a stick

If it puts the Republicans on the spot, to make them the ones to take away rights, instead of Democrats doing it to appease the right, then that seems like a net positive change.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:56 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's the opposite of "."?

"Ding dong the witch is dead" isn't quite right, nor is "Rot in hell, motherfucker." Maybe I'll be generous and just stick with "Rest in Peace."

Of course this is all premature, but I want to be ready when the time comes.
posted by alms at 12:02 PM on February 23, 2011


So a state's refusal to accept a gay marriage will still be legal. Although you'd think the Full Faith and Credit Clause would wipe that one out in a second

This has come up before. An awful lot of people seem to miss the second part of the Full Faith and Credit Clause:
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records, and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.
That is, South Carolina cannot, solely on its own authority, refuse to recognize contracts signed in Nebraska if they were signed on a Tuesday. However, if the US Congress provides that one state does not have to recognize contracts signed in another on a Tuesday, then South Carolina can refuse to recognize such contracts from another state. Which, by analogy, is what DOMA section 2 does.

as it did under Loving.

The Supreme Court decision in Loving v. Virginia had nothing to do with the Full Faith and Credit Clause. The law was ruled unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:03 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stay classy, AFA.

If they're right that this is "a wakeup call" for conservatives, does this mean that we'll see the Tea Party start to speak out on social issues? That just seems like a bad idea. The Republican stances on social issues are the most obsolete part of their platform.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:19 PM on February 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


Uhrum. I'm all "hurrah" about the finding, but can everyone go back and please re-read Ironmouth's comment again?

Specifically, you absolutely do not want to have a President unilaterally deciding to not enforce a law that has been passed and signed into law. I don't care if you or I or 99% of the people don't like it. It has to go through a process.

To suggest that a president should willfully not agree to enforce a law without any process is a horrific concept -- yay, today it would be for your pony, but what if tomorrow he wanted to stop enforcing civil rights? The codified system exists in this place to allow for a changing of the guard to have an affect on the existing law, but it is through a staid and deliberate process more than one person is involved in its alteration.

Otherwise, why not call him a King?
posted by cavalier at 12:19 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dear Mr. Boehner: Civil rights don't take a vacation just because there's a recession.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:20 PM on February 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


Dang nab it, effect.
posted by cavalier at 12:21 PM on February 23, 2011


you absolutely do not want to have a President unilaterally deciding to not enforce a law

Thankfully thats not what happened here. The first line of the post is wrong, the article it links to is right: "We will continue to enforce it and allow those cases to continue and be resolved so that Congress and members of Congress can pursue the defense if they so desire"
posted by wildcrdj at 12:22 PM on February 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


a President unilaterally deciding to not enforce a law that has been passed and signed into law

He's not doing that. My FPP headline mischaracterizes the situation a bit. The DOJ simply isn't going to defend the Act against legal challenges in court anymore--so they're not enforcing it only in the sense that they won't actively be defending it from challenges in court. It's not the case that the law won't be enforced at all, and I apologize for my part in muddling that.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:23 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


"While Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, the President will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation."

jesus lapdancing christ, I read that as WHITE americans and I am pretty sure I had a small but significant stroke.

I suppose it would behoove me and my continued cerebral health to not always assume the worst.
posted by elizardbits at 12:23 PM on February 23, 2011


Specifically, you absolutely do not want to have a President unilaterally deciding to not enforce a law that has been passed and signed into law. I don't care if you or I or 99% of the people don't like it. It has to go through a process.


This was an error in the framing of the original post. The announcement wasn't to suspend enforcement, it was to suspend defending its constitutionality in court. This is, frankly, a pretty common move by state and federal AG's offices when dealing with lost cause statutes. For example, the Arizona AG declined to defend the English as official language ballot measure, to name one example off the top of my head.
posted by norm at 12:25 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is, frankly, a pretty common move by state and federal AG's offices

In California, the right is attempting to force the AG to always defend ballot initiatives because of Prop 8 (which the previous and current AGs both declined to defend).

I don't know whether it has any chance of passing (I'm guessing no).
posted by wildcrdj at 12:27 PM on February 23, 2011


Hey everybody, I know he did not do that, I'm responding to people like Slap saying that's what he should be doing.
posted by cavalier at 12:28 PM on February 23, 2011


In California, the right is attempting to force the AG to always defend ballot initiatives because of Prop 8 (which the previous and current AGs both declined to defend).

They should be careful what they wish for. The standing issue is, frankly, the only thing I see preventing the 9th circuit from issuing a broadly-applicable ruling requiring marriage equality in its territory.
posted by norm at 12:32 PM on February 23, 2011


"While Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, the President will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation."

I know the right likes to wield rhetoric like that, as though they're the ones speaking for "the American people" but I'm sick of hearing it. I've come to just think that it's probably true, and I keep picturing all these white people in West Virginia dressing up to go to church and then head to Cracker Barrel for lunch. Sarah Palin says it all the damn time. "The American people want." Can't one Democratic politician of influence just press her on that, and ask her if she's running a polling operation out of Bristol's old bedroom that makes her the expert on what the American people want.

Maybe someone from the left can say something like, "The American people want equal rights for everyone, and for the government to stop interfering in people's decisions on who they can marry. The American people ought to be the ones making decisions on who they want to and can marry, not the government."
posted by anniecat at 12:35 PM on February 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


Here is a comment I wrote in the last Prop 8 thread as it relates to the standing issue, lest my last comment was a bit cryptic to follow in this context. This (to some degree) explains the "enforcement" distinction that the official statement made: the DOJ will 'enforce' the law, because if the law is not being enforced it could actually rob a party of standing and therefore a ruling on the merits, on the grounds that their case is now moot.
posted by norm at 12:40 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe someone from the left can say something like, "The American people want equal rights for everyone

I really, really, really wish they would. I remain gobsmacked that Democrats cannot seem to formulate and wield simple statements. Or when they do ("Yes, we can"), they quickly get nuanced to death. ("Yes, we can ... but ...").

"While Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending..." In one phrase, Boehner has framed the debate as jobs vs. silly gay people with silly ideas. It's masterful politicking that wins close elections with low-information voters. Boehner's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but goddamn can that guy read from a script.

"We've concluded that this is unconstitutional." That is an insane thing for someone to say when you precisely do not have the power to say that. There are so, so many better ways to approach this and achieve the same or better ends.

Here's what Obama should be saying:

"We think it's unconstitutional, and the American people know that I have better things to do with my time. Thank you, goodnight. God bless America."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:49 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I AM GREASED UP AND READY TO FIGHT EVERY LAST ONE OF YOU, FOR ANY REASON
posted by Nattie at 12:49 PM on February 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Don't tease me.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:49 PM on February 23, 2011


I actually posted that right before I saw your comment. All the grease makes it hard to type. :-/
posted by Nattie at 12:51 PM on February 23, 2011


This is why it is vital to wear protective gloves when buttering oneself for battle.
posted by elizardbits at 12:52 PM on February 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


buttered for battle would be a pretty good MeFi username.
posted by The World Famous at 12:55 PM on February 23, 2011 [10 favorites]


Waiting to see how the Obama haters on the left here react to this. I'm sure it'll be something about how he was forced to this and is still a secret bigot at heart.
No no no. This is where we get to mock the defend-obama-no-matter-what crowd who said Obama had to defend this. Since obviously they were wrong. So this is win-win for Obama haters.
The difference between the youth vote and the GOP vote is the the GOP vote doesn't need their fucking hand held to do their job and vote as citizens.
What bullshit. It was looking pretty grim for them until the tea party showed up and whipped them into a hysterical frenzy. The idea that republican voters would just line up to vote for Dick Lugar or Tim Pawlenty if they were the nominee doesn't seem realistic. (The other thing is that the republicans tend to be older, and therefore vote more regularly)

But anyway, more of this highhanded "you owe us your vote" bullshit. I don't care if you think I have to vote a certain way or not, no one does.


(And honestly I am not sure this is wildly inconsistent with what I remember from the campaign, Obama never came across as a strong LGBT defender --- he's always been against gay marriage, for example, and still is)

Not true. When he was in the state senate he was for gay marriage. Then he flipped and became against it, for example.

posted by delmoi at 12:58 PM on February 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


"Repealing DOMA, getting ENDA [a bill to protect LGBT people from discrimination] done, those are things that should be done," Obama told The Advocate the night before signing Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal into law. "I think those are natural next steps legislatively. I'll be frank with you, I think that's not going to get done in two years. We're on a three- or four-year time frame unless there's a real transformation of attitudes within the Republican caucus."
...
So with 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' I have such great confidence in the effective implementation of this law because it was repealed [legislatively]. We would have gotten to the same place if the court order had made it happen, but I think it would have engendered resistance," he added. "So I'm always looking for a way to get it done if possible through our elected representatives. That may not be possible in DOMA's case. That's something that I think we have to strategize on over the next several months."
-- President Obama, December 22, 2010
posted by kirkaracha at 1:08 PM on February 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


It sets precedent for other Presidents to say there is no need to enforce Miranda and to not defend it in court.

Ironmouth, I'm not sure I understand your example. Under what circumstances would a challenge to the precedent in Miranda be defended by the federal AG? Miranda isn't a statute, so I'd presume the person 'defending' Miranda rights would have to be the accused in a criminal proceeding.
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 1:11 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is where we get to mock the defend-obama-no-matter-what crowd who said Obama had to defend this. Since obviously they were wrong. So this is win-win for Obama haters.

Yep. I don't care how cynical this ploy is, and don't care what snide comments Obama-boosters make, I'd vote for Obama again if he shows a consistent commitment to defending my rights, as critical as I am (and remain) of his history of inactivity.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:18 PM on February 23, 2011


Don't worry guys, collective liberal uselessness will ensure you'll get Palin in 2012, so then you'll have a proper point of comparison.
posted by Artw at 1:18 PM on February 23, 2011


Hows handing congress over to the republicans as a means of furthering liberal causes going for you guys?

To be fair, only one house of Congress is under Republican control.
posted by ericb at 1:21 PM on February 23, 2011


kirkaracha: "We're on a three- or four-year time frame unless there's a real transformation of attitudes within the Republican caucus.""

The point is that he didn't have to be on a three or four year time frame. He could have lobbied for the change on Day One, when he and the Democrats were firmly running two branches of government and had the votes and ability to effectively oppose Republican opposition. They were the elected representatives! It's not like he hasn't lobbied for other controversial causes since his election.

So he waited. And now it's going to be harder to make it stick legislatively because two years on, the Republicans have more power and have gained the ability and will to oppose him. How many gay couples have been put through hell because he and his administration waited?

He had an opportunity and he let it dissipate. I voted for him once and will no doubt vote for him again. But damn, this is really frustrating.
posted by zarq at 1:23 PM on February 23, 2011


A view from across the pond.
posted by hippybear at 1:24 PM on February 23, 2011


Actually, it is. Its a problem. It sets precedent for other Presidents to say there is no need to enforce Miranda and to not defend it in court. It opens a door I don't want opened.

The issue of defending laws an Administration disagrees with is complicated and has a long history. It is not as easily dismissed as you say here.


No. There is a big difference between refusing to enforce legislation and refusing to defend the constitutionality of a statute in litigation. Let me know if you can cite any precedent supporting the view that the Administration was bound to defend the DOMA (whether in the Ninth Circuit or the Eleventh Circuit or elsewhere), even if it believes it is unconstitutional. All you'll find is the occasional OLC opinion indicating that the Executive Branch should defend a statute if there is a reasonable basis for doing so.

But even if the distinction between enforcing a statute and defending it in the courts were illusory, your reference to Miranda still cuts against your point. After all, Congress and the President enacted a law in 1968 that had the opposite effect of your stated concern: it dictated that voluntariness (and not Miranda) was the touchstone for admission of confessions in federal courts. (Section 3501 of title 18, for those who care.) But successive administrations -- wait for it -- refused both to enforce and to defend the statute. Was that improper?

Keep in mind that the Obama Administration is not making any arguments about not opening the door to presidential interpretation of the Constitution. That's because, as others in the thread have observed, the Administration is more than happy to opine on the constitutionality or the unconstitutionality of an act of government when it is politically convenient to do so. In this case, and in the case of DADT, the Administration somehow grew a backbone over time, but it seems silly to pretend that it was the result of principled decision-making.
posted by Slap Factory at 1:24 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


He could have lobbied for the change on Day One, when he and the Democrats were firmly running two branches of government and had the votes and ability to effectively oppose Republican opposition.

Well, except for that pesky 60-votes required thing that the Senate Republicans managed to work with their filibuster threats. That pretty much derailed nearly everything.
posted by hippybear at 1:25 PM on February 23, 2011


Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA):
"As a Member of the Judiciary Committee, it is my intention to introduce legislation that will once and for all repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. My own belief is that when two people love each other and enter the contract of marriage, the Federal government should honor that. I opposed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. It was the wrong law then; it is the wrong law now; and it should be repealed."
You go girl. Harvey Milk is smiling down on you, his dear friend, right now!
posted by ericb at 1:27 PM on February 23, 2011 [5 favorites]


NOM's Maggie Gallagher Responds to the DOMA News - Obama Has 'Unilaterally Declared...Gay is Like Black'.
posted by ericb at 1:29 PM on February 23, 2011


hippybear: " Well, except for that pesky 60-votes required thing that the Senate Republicans managed to work with their filibuster threats. That pretty much derailed nearly everything."

Yes, and wasn't that infuriating to watch? They should have tried. Made the R's filibuster till there were none left standing.
posted by zarq at 1:30 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]




[I changed the post text at the request of the person posting it to go from "Suspends Enforcement" to "Will Not Defend in Court"]
posted by mathowie at 1:31 PM on February 23, 2011


ANALYSIS on Today's Memo: The End of DOMA?
President Obama has instructed the Department of Justice to stop defending Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which recognizes only opposite sex marriages for the purposes of federal law. The President has also stated clearly that he believes Section 3 is unconstitutional because the law does not pass heightened scrutiny. The Administration has previously defended DOMA under as rationally related to some legitimate government interest. As we have discussed before, that is the easiest standard to beat. But today, the President has stated that he does not believe such "rational basis review" is appropriate for laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Instead, DOMA merits some higher level of scrutiny, a hurdle DOMA cannot pass.

This is a welcome (and, admittedly, somewhat surprising) development. The President has long stated his opposition to DOMA, but this marks the first time that the Administration has come out in favor of heightened scrutiny and the first time the Administration has stated that it will decline to defend the statute in court. The President deserves our wholehearted support and gratitude. This is an important first step in what has already been (and will continue to be) a long legal drama.

But, does this mark the end of DOMA? Not exactly.

I would like to take this opportunity to briefly state how and why this happened seemingly out of the blue and what this development means for DOMA going forward. [continued ...]
posted by ericb at 1:34 PM on February 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


zarq: yes, it was infuriating. Even more infuriating is that the Senate rules didn't even require that an actual filibuster happen -- simply the threat of one without any follow-through is enough these days. Did they manage to fix that for this session? I heard they were going to try, but never got a follow-up. (Which probably means they didn't.)

Under those rules, however, the R's did filibuster, over and over, like there was no tomorrow and all the filibuster berries would go moldy by nightfall.

If they could change that, and do away with secret holds on nominations, we'd actually have a Senate that did things!
posted by hippybear at 1:35 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


You go girl. Harvey Milk is smiling down on you , his dear friend, right now!

Well, I'm certainly glad Feinstein is doing the right thing here, but it's a bit of a stretch to call her Milk's "dear friend". I just had a chance to read Randy Shilt's The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, and their relationship was fraught to say the least.
posted by VikingSword at 1:37 PM on February 23, 2011


As I understand it, a major customary reason the president can refuse to defend a law in court is if there are new legal judgements that make it clearly unconstitutional. That's what has happened in this case, with things like the Prop 8 ruling saying that gays must be treated equally regarding marriage. The president still has to enforce the law, but he doesn't have to defend it in court.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 1:43 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


NOM's Maggie Gallagher Responds to the DOMA News - Obama Has 'Unilaterally Declared...Gay is Like Black'.

Gay is the new black? Didn't expect a leading homophobe organization to be doling out fashion advice.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:53 PM on February 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


Chiming in a little late here, but as a gay guy and a big hater of DOMA, I have to be honest... I don't see this being as big of a deal substantively as it seems to be.

Courts will do what courts will do. It's not like the federal government is declining to enforce DOMA. And just because one side is refusing to defend the law does not mean a court will not be able to access those same defending arguments from amici briefs or anything else out there in the ether (or on the Internet).

Finally, the Supreme Court (which is really whose voice matters in the end) is *definitely* just going to do whatever it's going to do. The only way this will make a difference is if it influences Justice Kennedy.

I'm not saying this isn't welcome news. It's totally great news. I just don't think it's going to mean much substantively. I could be wrong, but that's what I think.
posted by Tin Man at 2:03 PM on February 23, 2011


To be fair, only one house of Congress is under Republican control.

And the other is effectively neutered, as long as the rules for filibusters remain unchanged. Having 41 votes means you can't lose.

Courts will do what courts will do. It's not like the federal government is declining to enforce DOMA. And just because one side is refusing to defend the law does not mean a court will not be able to access those same defending arguments from amici briefs or anything else out there in the ether (or on the Internet).

Actually, yeah, courts can't respond to arguments that aren't raised. I've seen plenty of case law where a judge throws in some dicta to the effect of "If you'd argued on this other point, that could have been a winner, but you didn't, sorry."
posted by kafziel at 2:05 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]



Specifically, you absolutely do not want to have a President unilaterally deciding to not enforce a law that has been passed and signed into law. I don't care if you or I or 99% of the people don't like it. It has to go through a process.


Whatever, it worked fine for medical pot. He could do the same thing for gay rights if he wanted. The only drawback is the next president can change the position, but it's better than nothing.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:09 PM on February 23, 2011


I'm holding out for my forty acres and a Vespa with a matching topcase and the optional glovebox iPod speakers, but our beloved country has a history of not following up on that sort of thing.

Now I just have to worry about all the jittery Tea Baggers with basements full of firearms, who will see this as the natural prelude to Mr. O declaring this country a communistic Islamic theocracy with enforced homosexuality and government-provided child-raping and jackboot-polishing services. O Jesus, preserve us all!

Still, if he sticks with this sort of thing, I might not be scowling so much or holding my nose while trying to make the fucking Diebold touchscreen machine register an Obama vote in 2012.
posted by sonascope at 2:11 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Whatever, it worked fine for medical pot. He could do the same thing for gay rights if he wanted. The only drawback is the next president can change the position, but it's better than nothing.

I call it The First Step.
posted by grubi at 2:14 PM on February 23, 2011


Fear is a powerful motivator. There's an entire right-wing noise machine devoted to fearmongering 24/7 any possible way they can.

Indeed. Gotta keep the ignorant rabble stirred up, else peace and harmony might break out. And you know what happened last time that happened.
posted by Twang at 2:17 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Poor Cyan, first Kefka poisons his castle, then Obama finds his castle unconstitutional....
posted by Philipschall at 2:33 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


hippybear: " If they could change that, and do away with secret holds on nominations, we'd actually have a Senate that did things!"

Completely agree.
posted by zarq at 2:38 PM on February 23, 2011


kirkaracha: One of the things that I have always liked about Obama is that he's been relatively straightforward when explaining his decision-making process. Not always, certainly, but more so than I generally expect from politicians on the national stage.
posted by Weebot at 2:45 PM on February 23, 2011


Actually, it is. Its a problem. It sets precedent for other Presidents to say there is no need to enforce Miranda and to not defend it in court. It opens a door I don't want opened.
Uh, hasn't that already happened? They made a big point about how they didn't 'mirandize' the underwear bomber for several hours. Etc. Of course there is the whole gitmo thing. And the bush administration not doing anything on CO2 regulation, nor the Obama administration doing much at all.

I'm pretty sure presidents can decide not to enforce laws, medical marijuana in CA is a good example, the president announced they were not going to enforce medical marijuana laws if they conflicted with state laws. Unfortunately I suppose this could be used with civil rights, but there are civil statutes that people can sue under.
posted by delmoi at 2:59 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]




Waiting to see how the Obama haters on the left here react to this. I'm sure it'll be something about how he was forced to this and is still a secret bigot at heart.

I don't hate him; I just expected more. And he is still on the record as being against gay marriage, so I hardly think his personal bigotry on this issue is a "secret."

However, I believe in giving credit where credit is due, and this is a nice step.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:09 PM on February 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure presidents can decide not to enforce laws, medical marijuana in CA is a good example, the president announced they were not going to enforce medical marijuana laws if they conflicted with state laws

The president is the head of the Executive branch. However, I imagine courts to compel him to enforce laws if it was hurting people, like if he decided not to pursue civil rights violators in your example. However, in the case of drugs it is a victimless crime; and since police/FBI/etc pretty much always have the discretion in the field on whether to make an arrest/launch an investigation, he is just saying "hey guys, let's not make that a priority."
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:12 PM on February 23, 2011


The right responds to Obama decision on DOMA

i am trying to set them on fire with my mind but so far i only gave myself a nosebleed. :/
posted by elizardbits at 3:12 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


"courts COULD compel him"
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:12 PM on February 23, 2011


He could have lobbied for the change on Day One, when he and the Democrats were firmly running two branches of government and had the votes and ability to effectively oppose Republican opposition.

The Democrats never had firm control of the Senate. They had 60 votes if you count a bunch of chickenshit Blue Dogs and fucking Joe Lieberman. They didn't have the votes, and the Democrats don't usually have the spine to effectively oppose anything.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:13 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


From the Attorney General's letter:

"Previously, the Administration has defended Section 3 in jurisdictions where circuit courts have already held that classifications based on sexual orientation are subject to rational basis review, and have advanced arguments to defend DOMA Section 3 under the binding standard that has applied to those cases.

These new lawsuits, by contrast, will require the Department to take an affirmative position on the level of scrutiny that should be applied to DOMA Section 3 in a circuit without a binding precedent on the issue." [emphasis added]

This is the key reason why the DoJ is no longer defending the DOMA Section 3 and why it took so long to come to the decision. The previous cases were in circuits that did not require the DoJ to make any affirmative statement of policy on any issue, only defend the facts as they relate to DOMA Section 3. However, the Second circuit now requires the DoJ to make an affirmative statement of policy on whether the DoJ believes that sexual orientation falls under rational basis review or whether sexual orientation must satisfy some form of heightened scrutiny. The Administration and DoJ have concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation required heightened scrutiny (in other words, classifications based on sexual orientation do not have a rational basis under law). The AG then goes on to site precedent that DoJ believes shows why DOMA Section 2 requires heightened scrutiny and why it is unconstitutionally discriminatory. The AG then notes that the DoJ can not and will not put forth theoretical arguments to support DOMA Section 2 and only rely on the Congressional record as it had during previous circuit cases (under the rational basis). The AG states that he believes the arguments in the Congressional record are discriminatory and not valid legal or "reasonable" arguments under heightened scrutiny. The AG ends by saying that if asked by the Second Circuit court, DoJ are basically going to say that they have no legal or even "reasonable" argument why this law is not discriminatory. If Congress can think of a good defense, they are welcome to try.

Prior to the cases reaching the Second Circuit, DoJ could not make this argument since previous circuits did not allow the DoJ to claim that classification of sexual orientation did not require a heightened standard. The Administration is not deciding which laws to enforce or not enforce; it is saying that, now that certain legal questions are in play, it has no reasonable defense for this particular law.

Sorry to drop a big post and run, but it's after midnight here and I've got to get up tomorrow.
posted by chrisulonic at 3:14 PM on February 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


Artw: Hows handing congress over to the republicans as a means of furthering liberal causes going for you guys?

The exit polls clearly state otherwise. Liberals voted in 2010 exactly the same way they did in 2008, 2006, 2004, and 2002. They were ~21% of the population and ~90% voted for Democrats. These results are within polling error of each other, and within polling error of estimates of liberals in the population.

The electoral shifts between 2004, 2008, and 2010 were among moderates and conservatives. But it's evidently much more satisfying to yell at Democratic-voting liberals over statistically-insignificant protest voting than to sell gay rights to the moderate swing voters who will make the next election.

drjimmy11: I don't hate him; I just expected more. And he is still on the record as being against gay marriage, so I hardly think his personal bigotry on this issue is a "secret."

I don't see him as a bigot. I see him as a politician who's courted both sides of the issue and is willing to let other people take leadership rather than make waves. Which may very well be the right and proper position for a Democrat sitting in the White House, but gay rights advocates are not obligated to suspend the legal battles or lobbying either.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:19 PM on February 23, 2011 [8 favorites]




And he is still on the record as being against gay marriage, so I hardly think his personal bigotry on this issue is a "secret."

Warning: groundless speculation ahead. Look, if I were a gambler asked to put my money - real money - on what BO believes in his heart of hearts, I'd put it on "he'd down with full gay civil rights, including marriage". But he's a politician too, and he's made a calculation that revealing his true feelings on this issue would lose him more votes than he could gain. So he told a lie. Weirdly, I agree with the conservatives here: Obama lied when he spoke about gays and marriage - he was for it all along. Now, maybe his calculus was wrong - I'm not a pollster, so I can't say, though I tend to think he was right about that reality; ten years from now - maybe sooner, hopefully much sooner - it may very well be quite OK for a presidential candidate to say he's for gay marriage and for it not to lose him more votes than he gains. But that was not the case in 2008, and I suspect, still is not today.

Barack Obama lies. He's a politician who wants to be elected and to govern. Sometimes those lies work for us, sometimes against us. But it would be extremely naive to believe everything he says.

Anyhow, it's all speculation, I can't read his mind, and I have no way of knowing. So call it my gut instinct, honed by decades of living in this world of ours.
posted by VikingSword at 3:35 PM on February 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Orin Kerr at "Volokh Conspiracy" posts his misgivings about it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:50 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


There goes my business model.
posted by MrMoonPie at 3:55 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Weirdly, I agree with the conservatives here: Obama lied when he spoke about gays and marriage - he was for it all along.

I agree with you, too. I have the impression that his position on the issue was religious pandering and that his involvement with religion generally (and the church or churches he has attended throughout his political career) is generally politically-motivated rather than out of a sense of personal belief. I think he's more committed to the overall political goals of his own philosophy of government (which includes equality) than he is to any dogmatic religious position.

But, like you, I could be wrong.
posted by The World Famous at 4:01 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]




Orin Kerr at "Volokh Conspiracy" posts his misgivings about it.

Yeah. It's important to consider both ends and means. I am fully in support of the administration's ends here, but the means are troublesome. Obama won't always be president.
posted by Justinian at 4:10 PM on February 23, 2011


ericb: I'm jaded, but that headline made it sound to me like the President was, uh, getting someone to help him with his luggage
posted by jtron at 4:13 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Democrats can play the art of the possible and civil rights groups can campaign tirelessly for the repeal of discriminatory federal law. That's their proper roles within the sausage factory of American politics.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:28 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]




And he is still on the record as being against gay marriage, so I hardly think his personal bigotry on this issue is a "secret."

Warning: groundless speculation ahead. Look, if I were a gambler asked to put my money - real money - on what BO believes in his heart of hearts, I'd put it on "he'd down with full gay civil rights, including marriage". But he's a politician too, and he's made a calculation that revealing his true feelings on this issue would lose him more votes than he could gain. So he told a lie. Weirdly, I agree with the conservatives here: Obama lied when he spoke about gays and marriage - he was for it all along. Now, maybe his calculus was wrong - I'm not a pollster, so I can't say, though I tend to think he was right about that reality; ten years from now - maybe sooner, hopefully much sooner - it may very well be quite OK for a presidential candidate to say he's for gay marriage and for it not to lose him more votes than he gains. But that was not the case in 2008, and I suspect, still is not today.

Barack Obama lies. He's a politician who wants to be elected and to govern. Sometimes those lies work for us, sometimes against us. But it would be extremely naive to believe everything he says.

Anyhow, it's all speculation, I can't read his mind, and I have no way of knowing. So call it my gut instinct, honed by decades of living in this world of ours.


but he's still a bigot until he comes out of the closet with his gay marriage support.

Hey guys, come on, I only joined the KKK to get votes...I'm not a bigot!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:31 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


but he's still a bigot until he comes out of the closet with his gay marriage support.

Hey guys, come on, I only joined the KKK to get votes...I'm not a bigot!


C'mon, I know you are furious, and so am I, but let's be furious about the right things - that the political reality is such, that homophobia still has a terrible hold in the electorate.

Now, let's stop playing games. Since you brought up a ridiculous example with the KKK, here's my "wrt. the KKK" response: it's not "I only joined the KKK to get votes...I'm not a bigot!", rather, what if by joining the KKK, like a sleeper agent, you intended to destroy it? That would not make you a bigot, regardless of what you had to claim to their face when joining the KKK.

And surely you admit of the existence and effectiveness of such a simple tactic of subterfuge, that's been known for at least the past 5000 years of recorded history.

But I rather suspect you know all this.
posted by VikingSword at 4:40 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


the political reality is such, that homophobia still has a terrible hold in the electorate.

Now, let's stop playing games. Since you brought up a ridiculous example with the KKK


You can't possibly be for real.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:46 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sure, I'm in the Klan since racism has a terrible hold on the electorate here back in time, but maybe next year I'll reveal my true stance and you will look soooo silly for thinking this was a bad idea!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:49 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think that the subversive agent working from the inside idea is pretty ridiculous.

But then, I also think the extension of Obama's lack of congruency with your views on same-sex marriage into a suggestion of KKK membership was also pretty ridiculous.
posted by hippybear at 4:53 PM on February 23, 2011


I also think the extension of Obama's lack of congruency with your views on same-sex marriage into a suggestion of KKK membership was also pretty ridiculous.

Why?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:54 PM on February 23, 2011


but he's still a bigot until he comes out of the closet with his gay marriage support.

I'm confused. My understanding of Obama's campaign position on same-sex marriage is that "although [he] tr[ies] not to have [his]religious beliefs dominate or determine [his] political views on this issue, [he] do[es] believe that tradition, and [his]religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman."

Are you hoping that Obama will change his policy position on the legality of same-sex marriage or are you hoping that he will decide that same-sex marriages are religiously sanctified, as he claims to believe regarding opposite-sex marriage? If it's the latter (or, indeed, both), what do you have to offer that might convince him (or anyone else) that same-sex marriage is, to use Obama's word, "sanctified?"

Also, don't you think that, just maybe, calling Obama a Klansman is just a little bit like Godwinning the thread?
posted by The World Famous at 4:55 PM on February 23, 2011


Why?

Because it's arguing to the extreme, and doesn't really reflect the reality of the situation at all.

It may be how you feel. Perhaps you do equate anyone who doesn't hold congruent views with your own as being members of a group which has a long history of intimidation, murder, torture, and public ostracization of minority groups.

But in reality, having publicly evolving views on the legal standing of a group of people which you haven't hung burning tires around the necks of any members... It's pretty much not the KKK.
posted by hippybear at 5:01 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think that the subversive agent working from the inside idea is pretty ridiculous.

I don't think it's ridiculous at all. He knew that if he revealed his true feelings, he would not be elected. So he used subterfuge - i.e. lied about his true views, so that he would be more palatable to the electorate. And once elected he would fight for the very gay rights he had to be not entirely honest about to the electorate. Not exactly "ridiculous" - it's a tactic politicians have been using since the dawn of recorded history.

Now, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe he's in fact a bigot as furiousgeorge claims. I don't know. It's my hunch vs furiousgeorge's hunch. Who knows who is right. Anyhow, I freely admit that I don't know his mind, and it's just my speculation. But perhaps furiousgeorge has a much better grasp of BO's mind.
posted by VikingSword at 5:02 PM on February 23, 2011


My understanding of Obama's campaign position on same-sex marriage is that "although [he] tr[ies] not to have [his]religious beliefs dominate or determine [his] political views on this issue, [he] do[es] believe that tradition, and [his]religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman."

I think it's evasive because Obama is probably well aware that the religious sacrament of marriage is entirely separate from the legal institution of marriage. Repeal of DOMA would mean absolutely nothing to whether his congregation celebrates same-sex marriage.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:03 PM on February 23, 2011


The violence? Valid point of difference, but the pervasive culture of racism was as much about background acceptance of unjust laws as outright violence. You can substitute any racist group for KKK if it makes you feel better about the analogy, but the analogy to racism can't really be argued around.


Are you hoping that Obama will change his policy position on the legality of same-sex marriage


No, I think his position is his position. I'm not the one with the conspiracy theory about secret positions here.

Perhaps you do equate anyone


Hmm? I'm equating someone who thinks certain groups should be treated as inferior second class citizens as someone who thinks certain groups are inferior second class citizens. Sorry if I sound "extreme" about it.

Obama's views are in fact devolving, if you go back to his starting point back in the day. His views send no message but that he shifts with the political wind, he isn't needed for that, any empty suit will do.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:04 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's my hunch vs furiousgeorge's hunch.

Umm, no, your hunch against Obama's stated position.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:04 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Umm, no, your hunch against Obama's stated position.

No. It's your hunch regarding Obama's stated position, vs my hunch. You take what he said at face value. I suspect there's more to it - i.e. it's basically a lie of convenience. I may be wrong, of course, again, I freely admit this - I'm merely reporting on what my hunch is as in "if I were a gambler I'd risk real money on my position".
posted by VikingSword at 5:07 PM on February 23, 2011


^
Anyhow, since there is no way to read his mind, I'm bowing out of this tangent.
posted by VikingSword at 5:09 PM on February 23, 2011


But, if it's Obama's official policy that DOMA should stand based on the conservative reasoning that it's necessary to protect the religious institution of marriage, then he justifiably must weather criticism from gay-rights advocates who see DOMA as a problem.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:10 PM on February 23, 2011 [4 favorites]



No. It's your hunch regarding Obama's stated position, vs my hunch.


No, it's your hunch vs. Obama's repeatedly stated position and total lack of effort on the issue, even post election, regardless of me never posting in this thread.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:10 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's evasive because Obama is probably well aware that the religious sacrament of marriage is entirely separate from the legal institution of marriage. Repeal of DOMA would mean absolutely nothing to whether his congregation celebrates same-sex marriage.

I agree, KirkJobSluder. Now, I think it's only really "evasive" to the extent that people didn't listen closely to that particular statement by Obama - he didn't actually give his position on the legal status of same-sex marriage. He made a non-committal statement about his alleged efforts to separate religious belief from policymaking and then he made a pandering statement about his religious belief about opposite-sex marriages being "sanctified." Logically, there's no reason that someone's belief that opposite-sex marriages are "sanctified" should stand in the way of their supporting the right of same-sex couples to also get married. The law doesn't render anything sacred, after all.

But my question was based on furiousxgeorge's comments, which led me to believe that furiousxgeorge's hope was that Obama would abandon his belief in the sanctified nature of opposite-sex marriage, and not just that Obama would support same-sex marriage as a matter of public policy.
posted by The World Famous at 5:16 PM on February 23, 2011



But my question was based on furiousxgeorge's comments, which led me to believe that furiousxgeorge's hope was that Obama would abandon his belief in the sanctified nature of opposite-sex marriage, and not just that Obama would support same-sex marriage as a matter of public policy.


I have in fact used that exact argument myself in regards to people suggesting he secretly supports gay marriage. The dude cites his religion as one of his reasons he came to this point, lying about politics is one thing but lying about religious beliefs is another.

I guess both the left and the right agrees he is the kind of scumbag that would do that though, eh? :P
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:18 PM on February 23, 2011


I guess both the left and the right agrees he is the kind of scumbag that would do that though, eh?

Call me cynical, but my default position is that if someone's name appears on a ballot, I presume that they are that kind of scumbag.
posted by The World Famous at 5:21 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


And to take a step back a bit. It's not about personal character of Obama or Democrats in congress, it's about the repeal of discriminatory laws. When congress passes the repeal bill and Obama signs it, then they can take much-deserved credit for playing the game in our favor. And they can with DADT.

Until then, we're not obligated to give them credit or trust for Machiavellian back-room politicking that hasn't borne fruit.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:29 PM on February 23, 2011



Until then, we're not obligated to give them credit or trust for Machiavellian back-room politicking that hasn't borne fruit.


In fact, if the entire theory is that they will hide their secret position until the political winds shift, the only way to draw out the real position is by putting political pressure on them.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:30 PM on February 23, 2011


*hide behind
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:34 PM on February 23, 2011


Call me cynical, but my default position is that if someone's name appears on a ballot, I presume that they are that kind of scumbag.

And if they aren't that kind of scumbag, they want to be.

The problem with Secret-Sleeper-Bigot Obama is: how do you know? How do you know which is the True Obama and which is the other? The first one is always the false one? No, that won't work. When he does things that surprise people, we rationalize our frustration at his inital stance by saying he planned it this way all along? I don't think that holds water, either.
posted by rhizome at 6:00 PM on February 23, 2011


How do you know which is the True Obama

Obama-ception!
posted by mikelieman at 6:19 PM on February 23, 2011


This may not be the beginning of the end, but it seems like the end of the beginning. Any progress is better than none.
posted by Quietgal at 6:26 PM on February 23, 2011


My understanding of Obama's campaign position on same-sex marriage is that "although [he] tr[ies] not to have [his]religious beliefs dominate or determine [his] political views on this issue, [he] do[es] believe that tradition, and [his]religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.

Well, maybe so. But his mom was an avowed atheist. So you know, that rather makes her marriages suspect, too.
posted by lumpenprole at 6:33 PM on February 23, 2011


Finally...a break in the clouds for closeted Republicans.
posted by telstar at 6:40 PM on February 23, 2011


How do you know which is the True Obama and which is the other?

It's not that hard to tell, in my opinion. Here's the True Obama:

1. Is a true believer in the 21st Century version of the Democratic Party, particularly as embodied in the Chicago politics of the 2000s.

2. Is beholden to those who helped him to get where he is now and must, therefore, dedicate substantial energy to looking out for what they want him to do. And I'm not referring to the voters.

3. Has used and continues to use religious affiliation as a political lever, though not particularly effectively.

4. Values equality and civil rights, but values political expediency and the priority list imposed on him by his various benefactors more.

5. Cares about same-sex marriage rights just enough to do just a little bit about it every once in a while when he doesn't think it will hurt him politically.

6. Cares about his religious affiliation's position regarding the "sanctification" of marriage just enough to mention it in a non-committal way and to expressly separate it from policy consideration.

7. And, to the extent that I didn't give him enough credit above, here's where I make up for it: He's a very smart guy and a savvy lawyer. And, if he has half a brain and a halfway-competent legal staff, he realizes that, the more time passes, the more public support there will be for same-sex marriage and the stronger the constitutional arguments become. So, to the extent that he has any intention of doing anything to help same-sex marriage, he'd be wise to do it in a way that both utilizes public support and accomplishes lasting legal milestones that cannot be easily overturned.

I'm not sure why anyone would believe that there's any chance that Obama is genuinely a dogmatic God-fearing capital "C" Christian unless they're just not paying attention. The guy has given no reason to believe that he has any meaningful conviction as to any religious affiliation or any specific version of Christian theology. His overtures to Christian voters seem designed primarily to stop the notion that he's a Muslim. But I've seen nothing to suggest that he is genuinely a man of any real faith.

Well, maybe so. But his mom was an avowed atheist. So you know, that rather makes her marriages suspect, too.

Not really. He didn't say that he believes that only Christians' marriages are sanctified. If you take his statement at face value (i.e. if you assume he was telling the truth), he said that he believes opposite-sex marriages are sanctified. According to his statement, the only qualification for "sanctification" of a marriage is that it be between a man and a woman. He didn't say anything about the faith of the parties to the marriage, the authority of the officiator, or any other condition for what he called "sanctified."
posted by The World Famous at 6:41 PM on February 23, 2011


There is no reason to act like Obama only made that one statement against gay marriage. His position is clear and has been repeated. You can find it on his websites. He supports civil unions, not gay marriage. I have yet to see anything convincing enough to suggest he is lying about it.

It's truly bizarre how willing some can be to pretend Obama is something he isn't, be it on policy positions or religion or nationality or anything else. It's a little bit disturbing to be honest, I'm not planning to vote for him but I'm the only liberal who actually seems to believe he is mostly honest. Even a lot of conservatives just hate him for things he actually supports and tries to get done.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:35 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dear God--either way, I am 100% certain that you wouldn't stand up to a moment of your own scrutiny if you were somehow able to shine that penetrating critical light on yourself from such a safe distance.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:53 PM on February 23, 2011


I just mean, doesn't this all start to feel an awful lot like pointless "how many angels can fit on the head of a pin" style theological speculation?
posted by saulgoodman at 7:55 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you talking to me?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:55 PM on February 23, 2011


Not you in particular, really. But the whole question: all of it. These discussions always become so speculative and weirdly intense and personal. It's just kind of creepy how much ink we devote around here to sussing out our hunches about the guy's innermost being sometimes. I mean, did people hyper-analyze and scrutinize the most minute traits of previous presidents this way?
posted by saulgoodman at 7:59 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


(the "you" was meant as the universal you; might as well have used "we")
posted by saulgoodman at 8:01 PM on February 23, 2011


It's pretty easy to predict what Obama is going to do on every single issue. I don't know why people are surprised.

Pick any issue -- take the smallest incremental change that you could possibly make to the left from the current status at any time.

He's never going to do anything radical. You're never going to wake up to news that Obama has dramatically changed things for the better.

On the other hand, at the end of 4 years, we'll be in a much better, more liberal country than we were when W left office, and WAY more liberal than we would have been under a McCain administration, and people will barely notice that he did it.
posted by empath at 8:54 PM on February 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


yeah I think that is about it too.

It kind of boils down to the understandable desire for dramatic action now! vs. (the real meaning of) sea change. People want Iraq type solutions (that work) not waiting decades for the citizens of (Tunisian or Egypt or Libya) to do it themselves.

I really do understand the frustration and desire for drama and bold statements, they are emotionally satisfying and are rallying points. In the end though I prefer the methodical get there surely approach.
posted by edgeways at 9:06 PM on February 23, 2011


Empath, it's funny how a Tea Partier could take that same comment and say that he's sinisterly transforming our country at a rate so slow nobody will know it's happening, until one day we wake up and we're living like Europeans.

Actually, Glenn Beck did with the old "Frog in boiling water analogy," didn't he?
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:07 PM on February 23, 2011


Pick any issue --

Tax cuts for the rich!

take the smallest incremental change that you could possibly make to the left from the current status at any time.

Give them slightly smaller tax cuts instead of exactly the same cuts as Bush gave them!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:11 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Stop causing such a fuss civil rights protesters...we'll surely get there someday through a methodical process of denying you your rights for now!

Really, the trips through the Twilight Zone never end in liberal cognitive dissonance land. Egypt as an example of why you just need to wait for your leaders and trust them to do the right thing after a few decades.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:17 PM on February 23, 2011


On the other hand, at the end of 4 years, we'll be in a much better, more liberal country than we were when W left office, and WAY more liberal than we would have been under a McCain administration, and people will barely notice that he did it.

We're two years into his presidency and I just saw my congressman on TV saying that the US should crush the pro-democracy protests in the Middle East because they threaten our oil supply. Also, 75% of my state is against raising sales taxes even slightly to save our educational system.

This better, more liberal country you speak of: it's coming soon, yes?
posted by Avenger at 9:56 PM on February 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


top causing such a fuss civil rights protesters...we'll surely get there someday through a methodical process of denying you your rights for now!

No, you can continue to pout, and I'll continue to not care.
posted by empath at 9:57 PM on February 23, 2011


Glided right over that tax cut issue destroying your point to launch non-content insults, eh? Don't worry, I'm used to dealing with conservatives in the cognitive dissonance state, I'm used to the insult instead of content path.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:06 PM on February 23, 2011


I've already expressed disappointment in this thread that it took so long and argued that the stated reasons for this decision were weak and contradictory. That being said, this is a good thing. And this shows that this administration is capable of being prodded, convinced, and swayed by logic and political pressure, which is certainly more than we could say of any other potential alternative. Rejecting this administration because they aren't good enough is counterproductive at best.
posted by norm at 10:14 PM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are a multitude of viable alternatives if your only standard is, "Willing to bow to political pressure."

Fuck, elect me and I'll run the country on the Gallup poll. You will find that this method of governance has more drawbacks for progressives than benefits though.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:23 PM on February 23, 2011


"Fuck, elect me and I'll run the country on the Gallup poll."

Breaking news: Gallup purchased by Koch Industries!

;)
posted by jaduncan at 3:42 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


empath: No, you can continue to pout, and I'll continue to not care.

Hold on a second, you really don't care that millions of Americans don't have equal protection under the Constitution when it comes to their family relationships?

empath: On the other hand, at the end of 4 years, we'll be in a much better, more liberal country than we were when W left office, and WAY more liberal than we would have been under a McCain administration, and people will barely notice that he did it.

At the end of four years, the question of whether same-sex relationships have equal protection under Constitutional law is more likely to be in the hands of the Supreme Court than the White House. Even if the supreme court rules in our favor, issues of discrimination and application of that decision means that civil rights groups will still need to keep pressure on politicians to do the right thing.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:27 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hold on a second, you really don't care that millions of Americans don't have equal protection under the Constitution when it comes to their family relationships?

No, I don't care that people are complaining that it's not happening fast enough. It'll get done.
posted by empath at 5:30 AM on February 24, 2011


No, I don't care that people are complaining that it's not happening fast enough. It'll get done.

You don't care that people are complaining about discrimination that harms them right now?

Pressure by civil rights activists is part of the process of getting it done. Without that pressure, you don't have a civil rights movement.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:51 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


No, I don't care that people are complaining that it's not happening fast enough. It'll get done

More than a decade ago my closest childhood friend called me with the news that his partner had committed suicide. They had loved each other deeply, but his partner had emotional issues. He had been raised a religious baptist, his family and most of his friends had unceremoniously dumped him when he'd come out. He'd been subjected to abuse by people he had trusted for no other reason than because he was gay. It was ugly and heartbreaking. He never got over it.

He was a gifted psychologist, and one afternoon downed a bottle of something alcoholic and a couple of bottles of pills. And he died.

We believe his emotional conflicts and anger and bitterness just overwhelmed him. He didn't leave a note, but his private journals were filled with awful, poignant self-loathing essays. They'd been in couples therapy, and he'd been going on his own as well.

If my friend and he had been able to marry, they would have. But the best they were able to manage was an informal commitment ceremony. They were in their 20's and planned on revising their wills, and setting up trusts eventually, but never got around to it. In their late 20's, they naturally thought they had plenty of time to take care of such things.

So when he died, my friend -- his partner and soulmate -- had no legal rights. To anything. And his deceased partner's homophobic, gay-hating parents and his homophobic former best friend turned out to be the only people listed on a short, one-page will the man had filed with the family lawyer years before.

The vultures descended.

The best friend showed up with a fucking shopping list of the things she wanted to take from their home. And my friend, who had just lost the love of his life, had to watch as she carted things off. My understanding is that she hadn't spoken with the man in at least a year or two. Didn't matter. My friend was distraught and very depressed and chose not to put himself through a legal battle he was convinced he'd lose.

The parents were more sympathetic. They had struggled to come to terms with who their son was. Didn't stop them from demanding things from my friend, who again, had no choice but to acquiesce. No way to argue or fight, because ultimately he knew he'd lose that battle too.

Think about this please: you live with someone. Become deeply enmeshed in each others lives.Start that grand journey together that every couple attempts. You buy a home, your own haven against the world. Love each other unconditionally. You work together to try and heal your emotional wounds from abuse that's been heaped upon you both by society for being different.

And then one of you dies unexpectedly and all that ends. Worse, during the most awful, heart-wrenching moments of your life, some asshole who once treated the love of your life like shit gets to dictate to you what their wishes really were. Because they know better than you. Because in their mind you're not worth treating with compassion or kindness.

Empath, you may be privileged enough not to have to worry about similar problems happening to you. You may never experience hospital staff telling you that you can't spend your final moments with the person you love because you're not "family." As if loving and caring for (and being together with) someone for years is somehow less meaningful when you're gay. You may be blessed enough to never have to experience that or any number of other horrible indignities in your life. Consider yourself lucky. Because being gay can be an excuse for other people to treat you as less than human.

I have no doubt that "it'll get done." But I and other people are not so complacent about it for good reasons.
posted by zarq at 6:28 AM on February 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


No, I don't care that people are complaining that it's not happening fast enough. It'll get done.
posted by empath


Eponysterical.
posted by nevercalm at 6:35 AM on February 24, 2011


I have no doubt that "it'll get done." But I and other people are not so complacent about it for good reasons.

That's fine. But its not Obama's fault that it's not happening as quickly as you want, and those are the complaints that I don't care about.
posted by empath at 6:39 AM on February 24, 2011


Us gay folks have some awfully big, heart-rending complaints for you to "not care about", as you put it.
posted by Avenger at 6:50 AM on February 24, 2011


Direct your anger at the people that are actually the problem -- the Senate Republicans (and probably a bunch of Senate Democrats) that would filibuster any attempt to repeal DOMA.
posted by empath at 6:53 AM on February 24, 2011


empath : "I have no doubt that "it'll get done." But I and other people are not so complacent about it for good reasons.

That's fine. But its not Obama's fault that it's not happening as quickly as you want, and those are the complaints that I don't care about.
"

We disagree.
posted by zarq at 6:57 AM on February 24, 2011


Empath, I will direct my anger at everyone in positions of power who simply can't bring themselves to say, "I think gay marriage should be legal." I'm not singling out Obama, he singled himself out when he decided to run for President.

Since the entire theory here is Obama will do something when the politics is right, the only logical course of action for people who consider this an important civil rights issue is to put as much pressure on Obama as possible as soon as possible. The logical policy remains the same even if he ISN'T lying about his political and religious beliefs and actually doesn't support gay marriage. Either way, there is no logical position that ends up with not asking the President to proclaim his support for the right choice.

I'm not even asking him for action here, I'll settle for something like his lackadaisical endorsement of ending the Bush tax cuts or getting a public option. If you can't do anything, at least make the climate for the next guy easier to handle.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:03 AM on February 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actually, it is. Its a problem. It sets precedent for other Presidents to say there is no need to enforce Miranda and to not defend it in court. It opens a door I don't want opened.

The issue of defending laws an Administration disagrees with is complicated and has a long history. It is not as easily dismissed as you say here.

You credit me with an argument I have not made.

In that they have not said they will not enforce the law (and, indeed, have expressly stated that they will), it does not create a precident to not enforce the law. Hence I disagree with the claim that it does create a precident for not enforcing the law. It might create a precident for not defencing the law (and as you note, this is more complex) but these are not two things that should be conflated due to really quite serious consitutional issues that would apply if the latter were done.


Oh dear, I have not been clear. My bad. I was speaking of defending positions in court. The Miranda example was meant to be regarding the defense of a position in a case, not to imply that a future administration would not enforce the law.

There's a long set of arguments on this issue and I'm even on the wrong side of my favorite president, Abraham Lincoln.

But I think statutory is the way to go here. DADT worked. This will too. Within 5 years. Amazing that it went from a GOP club in swing states in 2004 to a political club for the Dems now. They will cave.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:46 AM on February 24, 2011


empath: Direct your anger at the people that are actually the problem -- the Senate Republicans (and probably a bunch of Senate Democrats) that would filibuster any attempt to repeal DOMA.

Until the law is repealed, we need to put pressure on everyone in government. This pressure is designed to:
1: back strong supporters
2: pressure weak supporters to keep the issue live
3: change the minds of undecideds
4: pressure weak opponents to let the issues go to vote.

This kind of pressure was central to getting DADT out of congress. You just can't sit on your hands and hope that things happen.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:21 AM on February 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, except for that pesky 60-votes required thing that the Senate Republicans managed to work with their filibuster threats. That pretty much derailed nearly everything.

This is simply not true. The Democrats had 59 seats in the Senate after the 2008 elections. They needed one Republican vote to break any filibuster. Eight Republicans voted for repeal, and at least three of them -- Collins, Snowe, and Murkowski -- were on record as supporting repeal before the vote was taken. So what did filibuster have to do with it?
posted by Slap Factory at 10:15 AM on February 24, 2011


House Dems To Push Legislative End To DOMA.
posted by ericb at 10:46 AM on February 24, 2011




Eight Republicans voted for repeal, and at least three of them -- Collins, Snowe, and Murkowski -- were on record as supporting repeal before the vote was taken. So what did filibuster have to do with it?

There's been a vote on repeal of DOMA? I wasn't aware of that.

More to the point, it's that the bar has been raised from requiring a majority to pass things in the Senate to requiring 60 votes. That's more than a majority, and certainly seems to be more than the framers of the Constitution intended for passage of most bills when they created the body. Without the threat of filibuster, the Senate would have been moving forward with a great number of things. With it, there's that pesky 59 votes, and spending political capital to try to get one of the other side to defect so a vote can even be taken on the issue.
posted by hippybear at 11:43 AM on February 24, 2011


The issue of defending laws an Administration disagrees with is complicated and has a long history

I'll bet! Really, though, any leads, cites, links on this would be most welcome. I am dead ignorant on any other examples of this kind of stance.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:45 AM on February 24, 2011


But its not Obama's fault that it's not happening as quickly as you want, and those are the complaints that I don't care about.

Oh yeah, he doesn't have any power or influence, he's just the leader of the most powerful country on earth.
posted by John Cohen at 11:47 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't believe for a second that Obama was going to defend DOMA to the bitter end. I have always believed and continue to believe that Obama wants to get gay marriage through (or at the very least domestic partnerships with equivalent rights).

It's not hypocritical to say that it was okay for the Obama Justice Department to defend the legislation at first and also say that it's okay to not defend it now. The default position should be to defend all legislation, and its fine to time decisions like this for pragmatic reasons (ie, after the midterm elections, when it won't be a hot button issue). He had a lot on his plate when he came into office, and this was simply not a top priority for him -- health care, the 2 wars and the economy came first.

It's a fantasy that any politician is going to be successful just going into office and throwing out everything that went before by any means necessary. That's what Bush did, and when you do things extralegally and cut corners, its simple for your successor to just not do what you did and reverse all your 'accomplishments'. Anything which is easily changed is just as easily reversed. It's much harder to institutionalize reforms so that there is inertia and resistance to changing them back.

DADT was reversed with all three branches of government participating. DOMA will be reversed on a similar model. One was more urgent and more popular than the other, so it got done first. The other is happening now. I expect that in the next 12 months, DOMA will be gone.

Feel free to favorite this and throw it in my face in a year if I'm wrong.
posted by empath at 11:47 AM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, he doesn't have any power or influence, he's just the leader of the most powerful country on earth.

He's not a dictator.
posted by empath at 11:48 AM on February 24, 2011


I read the Greenwald article, and am surprised by how much you miss the point, fxg. He's calling out people who mindlessly support the leader regardless of the policy. Most of the people here are applauding the change and were against the administration's previous policy. Fealty to the leader is not the issue; it's a desire to get good policy in place that I care about. This leader is convinceable and has just demonstrated that he can be persuaded to switch from bad policy to good policy. Your other options were not like that.

In fact, from your previous statements it sounds like you are yearning to be one of those people that Greenwald is calling out: you want a leader that you can just support regardless of the policy, trusting that he or she will just be on your side. Guess what? It's never going to happen. It's a utopian pipe dream not related to reality. Every leader you ever have will be on your side on some issues and against you on others. Instead you are the mirror bad actor that you are calling out; you are disappointed in his leadership before, and now that his administration has changed to the better policy you are still against him. Get used to lobbying if you want better policies, because it's the only way good things happen here.
posted by norm at 11:49 AM on February 24, 2011


Right. He's not a savior, and he's not a villain. He just does as much as he feels that he can get away with. Clearly, gay rights is not at the top of the agenda, but that doesn't mean that he's anti-gay or actively working against gay rights.
posted by empath at 1:01 PM on February 24, 2011


but that doesn't mean that he's anti-gay or actively working against gay rights.

Does anyone claim that he's "anti-gay"? The fact that he has stated "I am against gay marriage" means that he's against at least one civil right for gay people, right?

I absolutely reject all this mind-reading "Oh, he's actually FOR gay marriage!" bullshit. We judge a person on his words and his actions.
posted by muddgirl at 1:04 PM on February 24, 2011


I claim that someone who isn't willing to say gay marriage should be legal is anti-gay.

you want a leader that you can just support regardless of the policy, trusting that he or she will just be on your side

No.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:08 PM on February 24, 2011


*You don't have to be a dictator or a savior to say gay marriage should be legal, even a moderately intelligent strawman could do it!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:08 PM on February 24, 2011


I absolutely reject all this mind-reading "Oh, he's actually FOR gay marriage!" bullshit. We judge a person on his words and his actions.

His actions are that he's moving towards gay marriage, and more gay rights in general. The end result is that you will get what you want. How we get there is kind of beside the point.
posted by empath at 1:22 PM on February 24, 2011


The fact that he has stated "I am against gay marriage"

Since you put that in quotes, am I to understand that it is an actual quote? When did Obama say that?
posted by The World Famous at 1:26 PM on February 24, 2011




empath : "How we get there is kind of beside the point."

It really isn't. In addition to the lost opportunity I mentioned upthread (remember that our President is not the only player in the politics surrounding DOMA,) the administration's DOJ defended DOMA in 2009 when they said that a gay couple did not have the standing to press a case against it thanks to valid Congressional law. That establishes a precedent. They now reject a part of DOMA in 2011, which conveniently attacks that same valid Congressional law.

Every act taken regarding DOMA, even those that conflict, becomes a precedent that legislators and courts can and will point to when deciding in the future whether or not the law should survive. So yeah, stretching out the process can do a lot more harm than good.
posted by zarq at 1:31 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks, furiousxgeorge. I know it has been discussed on MetaFilter before, and I'm not trying to restart that discussion, but it's generally the best practice only to use quotation marks when actually quoting someone.
posted by The World Famous at 1:34 PM on February 24, 2011


But as you said, Obama doesn't get to decide if gay marriage is legal in this country or not. All he can do is be a model for his party. Like the critics have said over and over and over again in this thread, this memo is an encouraging first step, but it in no way indicates a sea change in Obama's personal opinion on gay marriage. Personally, I don't give two shits about his personal opinion, as long as he recognizes that his personal religious beliefs should be irrelevant to the constitutional facts of the matter. Clearly he believes that states have a right to decide the definition of marriage - the fact that they are refusing to defend Section 3 is a good example of this.
"...I personally believe that civil unions represent the best way to secure that equal treatment. But I also believe that the federal government should not stand in the way of states that want to decide on their own how best to pursue equality for gay and lesbian couples - whether that means a domestic partnership, a civil union, or a civil marriage."[Source: open letter to the LGBT community]
But this does not mean that he believes that full marriage equality at the federal is a constitutional right.

Since you put that in quotes, am I to understand that it is an actual quote?

Apologies, it is of course not a direct quote because a politician will rarely say that they are against something. But at this point we are quibbling over semantics:
I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman...
Source: Illinois Senate Debate #3: Barack Obama vs. Alan Keyes Oct 21, 2004

Barack Obama Quotes opposing Same Sex Marriage: "I do not support gay marriage. Marriage has religious and social connotations, and I consider marriage to be between a man and a woman." [ from the Human Rights Campaign's 2008 Presidential questionnaire]
Does "I do not support" == "I am against"? To me, yes.
posted by muddgirl at 1:34 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does "I do not support" == "I am against"? To me, yes.

I agree with you.
posted by The World Famous at 1:35 PM on February 24, 2011


No.

Nice response.
posted by norm at 1:39 PM on February 24, 2011


fwiw, there are things I do not support, that I can say I'm also not against.

That may in no way reflect the president's feelings on this issue. And this is a difficult issue to parse, as he has made that statement, but it may well have been a statement made out of what he thought was political necessity (a lie). So, in the back and forth all we can do s express our opinions on weather we believe him, or think he made a lie, and the motivations for that lie (if it exists).
posted by edgeways at 1:46 PM on February 24, 2011


I don't think, "Marriage is between a man and a woman" is that hard to parse. It means marriage is not between people of the same sex.

Obama has not lied about wanting to end DOMA, or about wanting to end DADT. He isn't afraid to state support for unpopular or doomed policies. There just isn't any reason to believe he is lying about his faith, personal opinion, and political position here aside from wishful thinking.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:54 PM on February 24, 2011


I do not support gay marriage. Marriage has religious and social connotations, and I consider marriage to be between a man and a woman.

From the same answer:
I believe civil unions should include the same legal rights that accompany a marriage license. I support the notion that all people – gay or straight – deserve the same rights and responsibilities to assist their loved ones in times of emergency, deserve equal health insurance and other employment benefits currently extended to traditional married couples, and deserve the same property rights as anyone else.
Looks like he was making a distinction between civil marriage and religious marriage, which is the recent default position for Democratic presidential candidates, as Obama was when he made this statement in June 2007. He made the statement in the way that was most likely to get him elected, and it doesn't necessarily represent his personal beliefs then or now.

That might work on paper. Hypothetically, if we replaced every instance of "marriage" with "civil unions" in every local, state, and federal law, then gay people would have all the same rights and benefits that straight people have. I don't believe that's practical, though, or likely to ever happen.

However, I don't believe that President Obama is bigoted. Unlike President Bush, I think Obama is sincere when he cites religious beliefs and mentions his conflicts about religious marriage. I also believe his views are evolving in the right direction.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:58 PM on February 24, 2011


There just isn't any reason to believe he is lying about his faith

Sure there is. How often has he taken his family to church since he has been in the White House?
posted by The World Famous at 1:59 PM on February 24, 2011


Is it possible that he doesn't really like the idea of gay marriage while he still supports the repeal of DOMA as a prejudicial policy in general?

I certainly don't really buy into the whole Justin Bieber thing, but I would work to repeal any laws which stated that he couldn't make music.
posted by hippybear at 2:00 PM on February 24, 2011


That might work on paper. Hypothetically, if we replaced every instance of "marriage" with "civil unions" in every local, state, and federal law, then gay people would have all the same rights and benefits that straight people have.

No, it doesn't work on paper, or in real life. [pdf link]

(I feel like I end up linking this in every gay marriage thread eventually.)
posted by hippybear at 2:02 PM on February 24, 2011


Even with president Bush, a political figure I loath, from anecdotal accounts in non mainstream reading I actually get the feeling he didn't really give a crap about the issue, and would go further and wager that for many in Washington opposition to SSM is more of a CYA political position than anything deeply help personal view. There are by and large not particularly pious people, they are opportunistic people.
posted by edgeways at 2:04 PM on February 24, 2011


Looks like he was making a distinction between civil marriage and religious marriage

Yay, separate but equal!

I also believe his views are evolving in the right direction.


Back towards where he was in 1996, sure.

Sure there is. How often has he taken his family to church since he has been in the White House?


You mean after the media destroyed the reputation of the last church he regularly attended? Regardless, plenty of religious people don't attend weekly services.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:07 PM on February 24, 2011


empath: It's a fantasy that any politician is going to be successful just going into office and throwing out everything that went before by any means necessary.

I don't think anyone seriously entertains this fantasy. Again, the issue is DOMA and the millions of people who will continue to be affected by discrimination under DOMA. As long as that is in effect, no cookies for lukewarm opposition to it.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:12 PM on February 24, 2011


You mean after the media destroyed the reputation of the last church he regularly attended? Regardless, plenty of religious people don't attend weekly services.

The media destroyed the reputation of Jeremiah Wright? Really?

Yes, plenty of religious people don't attend weekly meetings. And that would be a meaningful response me if I had said that there is conclusive evidence that Obama is lying about his faith. You said "there just isn't any reason to believe," and I provided a reason.
posted by The World Famous at 2:21 PM on February 24, 2011


Yes, the media trashed his reputation. Obama regularly attended services and was a member of the church for two decades until that happened and the security nightmare of the presidency was added to the plate. In addition, lack of attending services is not evidence of a lack of sincere religious belief. At all.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:29 PM on February 24, 2011


“I don’t think it’s disingenuous to say it creates a lot of havoc for the church,” said Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
posted by muddgirl at 2:30 PM on February 24, 2011


I seriously can't believe the contortions have gotten to birther levels here.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:30 PM on February 24, 2011


i tend to think anybody with a certain amount of intelligence, education and intellectual curiosity can't possibly be sincerely religious.
posted by empath at 2:32 PM on February 24, 2011


Do we think that Bush's lack of church attendance is evidence for his lack of faith?
What most [Americans] -- including many of the president's fiercest supporters -- don't know, however, is that Bush doesn't go to church. Sure, when he weekends at Camp David, Bush spends Sunday morning with the compound's chaplain. And, every so often, he drops in on the little Episcopal church across Lafayette Park from the White House. But the president who has staked much of his domestic agenda on the argument that religious communities hold the key to solving social problems doesn't belong to a congregation.
posted by muddgirl at 2:33 PM on February 24, 2011



i tend to think anybody with a certain amount of intelligence, education and intellectual curiosity can't possibly be sincerely religious.


Bigoted position to defend bigoted position of politician.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:35 PM on February 24, 2011


Being against gay marriage is not necessarily a bigoted position. It's not one I share, but it's not bigoted. There's a logical, rational argument to be against it that has nothing to do with thinking gay people are inferior, or treating them less equally. I'm not convinced by those arguments, but they're not always based on hate. It's even a position taken by many queer activists.

My position personally is that government should get out of the marriage business entirely except enforcing whatever contracts people choose to enter into. Then we don't need to decide what's a legitimate marriage and what isn't, ever again. I think that's where we'll end up, anyway.
posted by empath at 2:55 PM on February 24, 2011


Let's be fair: There are bigoted reasons to be against marriage equality, and there are non-bigoted reasons to be against normative marriage entirely.

I do not support the institution of marriage, but I am for marriage equality. It's pretty simple.
posted by muddgirl at 2:59 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Being against gay marriage is not necessarily a bigoted position. It's not one I share, but it's not bigoted. There's a logical, rational argument to be against it that has nothing to do with thinking gay people are inferior, or treating them less equally.

What would that be? Your link does not go to a source arguing gay marriage should not be legal.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:01 PM on February 24, 2011


Yes, the media trashed his reputation. Obama regularly attended services and was a member of the church for two decades until that happened and the security nightmare of the presidency was added to the plate

So your theory is that Obama doesn't go to church because, notwithstanding his faith and devotion, he's afraid any church he attends will turn out to have a minister who says idiotic stuff that gets blown out of proportion in the media, and he's afraid the Secret Service don't know how to deal with a President who walks across Lafayette Park to go to the church that's one block from the White House like Clinton did?

My theory is that Obama went to the church in Chicago for political reasons and not because of any personal devotion to the religion and that, frankly, is why I don't think it reflects poorly on Obama that Jeremiah Wright is an ass. After all, that was sort of the overtone of the whole thing during the election: It's OK that Obama went to a loony church because he doesn't really believe in it anyway.

I actually prefer political leaders to be not-particularly-religious and I like that Obama is not overtly so. I think his fall-back position on same-sex marriage, which he bases on alleged religious conviction, is a political move and a cop-out.

In addition, lack of attending services is not evidence of a lack of sincere religious belief. At all.

And if that's the position I had taken, your assertion would be relevant.

i tend to think anybody with a certain amount of intelligence, education and intellectual curiosity can't possibly be sincerely religious.

That is certainly a popular opinion. You'll understand, however, when highly-educated, intelligent, and intellectually-curious people who also happen to be religious take it as you either insulting their intelligence or insulting their sincerity, right? I tend to be wary of any position that can be fairly rephrased as "if you were as smart as me, you'd realize that I'm right."

Bigoted position to defend bigoted position of politician.

Is Obama's lack of support for same-sex marriage actually bigoted? I guess, if you assume that it is genuinely grounded in religious belief, sure.
posted by The World Famous at 3:01 PM on February 24, 2011


I guess, if you assume that it is genuinely grounded in religious belief, sure.

OH FFS. No one has to assume anything. We take him at his motherfucking word.

If you think Obama is a liar then there's no reason to have this discussion any more. Everything he has ever said is suspect. He's likely not even a human - he's probably like a Martian or something.
posted by muddgirl at 3:03 PM on February 24, 2011


If you don't think Obama is a liar you don't know anything about politics.

And I love Obama and will vote for him again.
posted by The World Famous at 3:06 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]



So your theory is that Obama doesn't go to church because, notwithstanding his faith and devotion, he's afraid any church he attends will turn out to have a minister who says idiotic stuff that gets blown out of proportion in the media, and he's afraid the Secret Service don't know how to deal with a President who walks across Lafayette Park to go to the church that's one block from the White House like Clinton did?


Clinton was pre-9/11, security is not the same. I think Obama can handle political fallout just fine, I don't think he wants to put another pastor through the wringer.

And if that's the position I had taken, your assertion would be relevant.

Again, lack of attending services is not evidence of anything. If you aren't using it as evidence what is it? It is not a reason to believe your theory.


Is Obama's lack of support for same-sex marriage actually bigoted? I guess, if you assume that it is genuinely grounded in religious belief, sure.

Yes, regardless of what it is based on.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:10 PM on February 24, 2011


My position personally is that government should get out of the marriage business entirely except enforcing whatever contracts people choose to enter into. Then we don't need to decide what's a legitimate marriage and what isn't, ever again. I think that's where we'll end up, anyway.

This is pretty close to Magical Libertarian Marriage, aka the excuse for libertarians to avoid having to be in favor of marriage equality.
posted by norm at 3:10 PM on February 24, 2011


Well, by that logic George W. Bush was a politician, so he was also a liar. Therefore, he actually didn't support going to War in Iraq! Few, glad that's settled. Best president ever.
posted by muddgirl at 3:11 PM on February 24, 2011



My theory is that Obama went to the church in Chicago for political reasons and not because of any personal devotion to the religion and that, frankly, is why I don't think it reflects poorly on Obama that Jeremiah Wright is an ass. After all, that was sort of the overtone of the whole thing during the election: It's OK that Obama went to a loony church because he doesn't really believe in it anyway.


Twenty years. Twenty years of lying about his faith, including to the point of baptizing his children in this church. If you make this argument you have literally no standing to attack people who use the same reasoning to claim he is Muslim. It is entirely as logical.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:14 PM on February 24, 2011


I mean, it's not like Obama is evading the question. He's not refusing to answer, or saying "It's between couples and their God" or whatever Democrats say about other hot-button issues like abortion. He has stated, unequivocably
This is an issue that I think helps to describe who we are...[Marriage] connotes to so many people a religious and not just civil element, and that includes me
If someone thinks that he can be so blatantly deceptive about an issue that seems close to his moral heart, then we literally can not trust him on anything he says. No, I won't vote for a person who will straight-up and unequivocably lie about his moral positions. Because how can we actually trust anything he says? Maybe he's actually pro-DOMA despite his repeated statements against it! Maybe he's actually pro-DADT despite his repeated statements against it! Maybe he is actually anti-Rove v Wade! Who knows?
posted by muddgirl at 3:16 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Again, lack of attending services is not evidence of anything.

See, now I'm not sure you know what the meaning of the word "evidence" is and I don't think there's any point in continuing that line of discussion.

Me: Is Obama's lack of support for same-sex marriage actually bigoted? I guess, if you assume that it is genuinely grounded in religious belief, sure.

furiousxgeorge: Yes, regardless of what it is based on.

And see, there you've got me wondering if maybe you don't know what the word "bigoted" means. Definitionally, what it's based on (and how it is manifest) determines whether or not the term "bigoted" accurately describes it.

Twenty years. Twenty years of lying about his faith, including to the point of baptizing his children in this church.

You don't think he was making politically-calculated career moves for twenty years? You don't think people attend church for social and other reasons other than personal devotion to a faith? You think the only people who have their kids baptized are the ones who are genuinely faithful and devoted? Really?

Well, by that logic George W. Bush was a politician, so he was also a liar. Therefore, he actually didn't support going to War in Iraq! Few, glad that's settled. Best president ever.

First: Yes, George W. Bush was a liar. Are you going to argue with me about that assertion?

Second: I'm flabbergasted by your assertion that if someone is a liar then each and every assertion of any kind they make must be the exact opposite of the truth. Are you serious?

If someone thinks that he can be so blatantly deceptive about an issue that seems close to his moral heart, then we literally can not trust him on anything he says.

He's not blatantly deceptive. He's transparently pandering. And that's right: You literally cannot trust him or any other politician on anything they say. Did you not know that?

No, I won't vote for a person who will straight-up and unequivocably lie about his moral positions.

That's fine. That means the line at the polls will be one person shorter.

Maybe he's actually pro-DOMA despite his repeated statements against it! Maybe he's actually pro-DADT despite his repeated statements against it! Maybe he is actually anti-Rove v Wade! Who knows?

Exactly. Who knows? But more importantly, who cares? What he does is what matters. What he believes in his heart of hearts is totally irrelevant unless it actually guides his conduct. If he says he's against DOMA and DADT and he takes meaningful action to oppose them, why does it matter whether his opposition is based on personal conviction or on political expediency?

I guess I'm not like you, because I want a President who does the right thing and I really don't care what he believes. I take it as a given that every statement a political candidate or sitting public figure makes is a calculated political move (unless they're an idiot, in which case they'll occasionally be dumb enough to just speak their mind). That doesn't mean every word that comes out of Obama's mouth is a lie. Does he support same-sex marriage? I have no reason to believe he does, aside from his new position on DOMA. Is it possible that his personal beliefs about the legal status of same-sex marriage have changed in the last two years? I think it's inconceivable that they could remain static. But I don't care what he believes. I care what he does.
posted by The World Famous at 3:31 PM on February 24, 2011


There's not a shred of credible evidence that Obama has lied about his personal beliefs. So if we assume that he is lying about his personal beliefs because it solves some cognitive dissonance in our brains, we create a problem in that we can't trust anything he says. It's that simple.

I guess I'm not like you... but I don't care what he believes. I care what he does.

I don't care what he believes either. I stated this quite clearly. Which of his actions haven't aligned with his stated beliefs? To me, his actions have aligned quite closely.

Anyway, we have moved away from the original position, which was whether or not he's a bigot. Now you are arguing that you don't care whether or not he's a bigot. Two different conversations.
posted by muddgirl at 3:37 PM on February 24, 2011


Furthermore, Obama has a national stage. If his personal beliefs have evolved, it's not like he doesn't have a forum to state that. "My opinions have evolved. I believe that civil marriage is a civil right." End of conversation.
posted by muddgirl at 3:41 PM on February 24, 2011


There's not a shred of credible evidence that Obama has lied about his personal beliefs. So if we assume that he is lying about his personal beliefs because it solves some cognitive dissonance in our brains, we create a problem in that we can't trust anything he says.

Politicians who tell the truth about what they believe don't win elections. Come on, don't be naive.
posted by empath at 3:43 PM on February 24, 2011


Ah yes, the naive charge. I have never claimed that he's telling the truth - the onus is on y'all to prove that he's lying. It should be easy - he's been in office for over 2 years.

I am not the one who's trying to overcome my cognitive dissonance by pretending that a candidate is only lying when he does not support a position that I support.
posted by muddgirl at 3:48 PM on February 24, 2011



Again, lack of attending services is not evidence of anything.

See, now I'm not sure you know what the meaning of the word "evidence" is and I don't think there's any point in continuing that line of discussion.


noun
1.
that which tends to prove or disprove something; ground for belief; proof.

And see, there you've got me wondering if maybe you don't know what the word "bigoted" means. Definitionally, what it's based on (and how it is manifest) determines whether or not the term "bigoted" accurately describes it.


–adjective
utterly intolerant of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own.

Now explain how a fact that proves nothing is evidence and effort to maintain legal prohibition of equality for a group based on sexual preference isn't bigoted.

You don't think he was making politically-calculated career moves for twenty years? You don't think people attend church for social and other reasons other than personal devotion to a faith? You think the only people who have their kids baptized are the ones who are genuinely faithful and devoted? Really?


I know, I know. He had to hide his Muslimness or he couldn't get elected. Wait, thought I was on Freep again for a second.


Politicians who tell the truth about what they believe don't win elections. Come on, don't be naive.


Pointless bullshit cynicism that is always used to maintain the centrist status quo. If they are all liars, we need a revolution not slavish devotion to a secret Muslim who agrees with some portions of our policies, sometimes, as long as the polls are behind it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:50 PM on February 24, 2011


we create a problem in that we can't trust anything he says. It's that simple.

Why is that a problem? We can't trust anything he or any other President or other politician says. And that's the truth.

Anyway, we have moved away from the original position, which was whether or not he's a bigot.

Sorry, I didn't know that's what we were discussing. Is Obama a bigot? Sure. Is someone arguing that Obama's not a bigot?

If his personal beliefs have evolved, it's not like he doesn't have a forum to state that. "My opinions have evolved. I believe that civil marriage is a civil right." End of conversation.

Why would he use his position as President to make such an announcement unless he thought it was politically expedient for him to do so at some given moment? I assume that he would like to be re-elected and I also assume that he currently thinks he will have a better chance at it if he does not alienate voters who will vote against him if he openly supports same-sex marriage. He is probably also currently thinking that people who support same-sex marriage will be smart enough to realize that their chances of getting what they want are better with Obama in the White House than, say, Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee.

I have no idea what Obama's deeply-held personal beliefs are regarding same-sex marriage. All I know is what he has said - which has always been politically calculated and pandering - and what he has done.
posted by The World Famous at 3:52 PM on February 24, 2011


I disagree with Obama on this issue. He will only change his mind on this issue when political pressure makes him. I'm voting for him no matter what.


About right?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:55 PM on February 24, 2011


Now explain how a fact that proves nothing is evidence and effort to maintain legal prohibition of equality for a group based on sexual preference isn't bigoted.

That's two questions, really. Let's deal with both (assuming I'm parsing your questions correctly):

1. "[E]xplain how a fact that proves nothing is evidence."

See the definition you cited: "Ground for belief." Moreover, I disagree with your ridiculous position that the facts in question "prove nothing." See my extensive commentary above.

2. "[E]xplain how a[n] . . . effort to maintain legal prohibition of equality for a group based on sexual preference isn't bigoted."

Let's refer to the definition of "bigoted" that you have offered: "utterly intolerant of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one's own." Well, assuming there is such an effort (and I think your characterization is inaccurate), it would only qualify, definitionally, as "bigoted" if it was utterly intolerant of some creed, belief, or opinion that differs from that of Obama. So, your hypothetical "effort to maintain legal prohibition of equality for a group based on sexual preference" could be non-bigoted under a wide variety of hypothetical circumstances, since the definition of "bigoted" is very specific as to motivation. I would also point out, though, that the word "bigoted" really describes everyone in the world in one way or another, so it's really more useful as an insult than a descriptor.

I know, I know. He had to hide his Muslimness or he couldn't get elected. Wait, thought I was on Freep again for a second.

Sorry. I didn't realize that everyone in the world who is not a devoted Christian in their heart of hearts was a Muslim. Thanks for correcting me on that one. I was trying to take a reality-based position rather than gravitating toward some logic-defying extreme willful ignorance in my interpretation of Obama's actions and words. But I guess that's not something you're interested in or something?

I disagree with Obama on this issue. He will only change his mind on this issue when political pressure makes him. I'm voting for him no matter what.

About right?


Who are you talking to? If you're talking to me, then no, that's not "about right." I don't know whether I disagree or agree with Obama or whether "chang[ing] his mind" is even relevant here. I do plan to vote for him again. I wouldn't say "no matter what," though.
posted by The World Famous at 4:09 PM on February 24, 2011


See the definition you cited: "Ground for belief." Moreover, I disagree with your ridiculous position that the facts in question "prove nothing." See my extensive commentary above.

Again, lack of attending services is not ground for belief that someone is not religious. It is extremely common among the religious. I'm not sure what you think playing semantic games is gonna accomplish here.

So, your hypothetical "effort to maintain legal prohibition of equality for a group based on sexual preference" could be non-bigoted under a wide variety of hypothetical circumstances, since the definition of "bigoted" is very specific as to motivation.

I don't understand how, "You are gay, therefore I believe you should be legally prohibited from having the same rights as straight people" is not evidence of motivation from intolerance. I don't understand how sacrificing the human rights of others for political gain would not be evidence of intolerance either.

I don't know whether I disagree or agree with Obama or whether "chang[ing] his mind" is even relevant here. I do plan to vote for him again. I wouldn't say "no matter what," though.

You don't know if you support gay marriage or not?

Sorry. I didn't realize that everyone in the world who is not a devoted Christian in their heart of hearts was a Muslim. Thanks for correcting me on that one. I was trying to take a reality-based position rather than gravitating toward some logic-defying extreme willful ignorance in my interpretation of Obama's actions and words. But I guess that's not something you're interested in or something?

Reality based position. That he conspired for two decades to fake his religion and baptized his children in a false belief.



I'm gonna go lay down for a while.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:18 PM on February 24, 2011


Again, lack of attending services is not ground for belief that someone is not religious. It is extremely common among the religious. I'm not sure what you think playing semantic games is gonna accomplish here.

I'm not playing semantic games. I apparently read more into it than you do (since you read nothing into it). There's nothing to argue about. I think, given all of the circumstances, Obama's church attendance as President contributes to my belief that his religious convictions are superficial at best. You apparently interpret the circumstances differently. But you're the one arguing semantically that we should be looking only at a single factor in isolation and writing off my entire theory because lots of religious people don't go to church. Believe whatever you want.

I don't understand how, "You are gay, therefore I believe you should be legally prohibited from having the same rights as straight people" is not evidence of motivation from intolerance.

If that is Obama's position, then that is evidence (not conclusive, obviously) of motivation from intolerance.

Me: I don't know whether I disagree or agree with Obama or whether "chang[ing] his mind" is even relevant here. I do plan to vote for him again. I wouldn't say "no matter what," though.

You: You don't know if you support gay marriage or not?

No. I don't know what Obama's personal opinion of the legal status of same-sex marriage is so I don't know whether I agree with it. And, since I don't think Obama's stated political positions are necessarily based on his personal opinions, I don't know whether "changing his mind" is relevant here.

Reality based position. That he conspired for two decades to fake his religion and baptized his children in a false belief.

Conspired to fake? That's not what I said. Read what I actually wrote and then we can discuss it.
posted by The World Famous at 4:27 PM on February 24, 2011


Reality based position. That he conspired for two decades to fake his religion and baptized his children in a false belief.

Maybe it's my Catholic upbringing that makes me not at all surprised by someone doing this. Half of my extended family did this just so they didn't have to fight with my maternal grandfather, who was religious. My other grandfather is an avowed atheist and still kept tithing to the Mormons long after he left Utah. My dad converted to Catholicism so he could marry my mom. There are lots of reasons to get involved with religion that are not at all related to sincere belief.

Anybody with political ambitions is going to nurture a relationship with a religious group, and if you read what he wrote in his biography about why he joined the church, it doesn't read to me as a religious epiphany at all.

He has given absolutely no indication, ever, that he's a religious zealot, or that he is primarily motivated by religious belief, and gave a detailed speech early on in his candidacy about why its important not to make public policy decisions based on religious belief alone.

He can say he is against gay marriage because of his religion, but that doesn't mean that he is against it as public policy.
posted by empath at 4:32 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seriously, imagine how hard it would have been for Obama to be an effective community organizer if he had not been active in the local religious community.
posted by The World Famous at 4:46 PM on February 24, 2011


Exact. Same. Argument. As. Birthers.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:47 PM on February 24, 2011


Exact. Same. Argument. As. Birthers.

No. Not. At. All. Are. You. Even. Reading. What. We're. Writing?
posted by The World Famous at 4:51 PM on February 24, 2011


Dude, I have debated birthers. Everything you are saying about why Obama had to fake his religion apply to why he had to hide his Muslim faith. You are using the exact same conspiracy theory.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:53 PM on February 24, 2011


Dude, I have debated birthers. Everything you are saying about why Obama had to fake his religion apply to why he had to hide his Muslim faith. You are using the exact same conspiracy theory.

Except that they think he's a Muslim and I just think he's a secular humanist, sure. And not only that, I think the vast majority of politicians who claim to be religious are full of shit, including Palin and Bush.
posted by empath at 4:56 PM on February 24, 2011


Well, maybe not Palin.
posted by empath at 4:57 PM on February 24, 2011



Except that they think he's a Muslim and I just think he's a secular humanist, sure.


Haha, I forgot you were a religious bigot so you don't understand why it doesn't matter which secret belief he is hiding behind his phony religion.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:59 PM on February 24, 2011


Do you not see the difference between acknowledging that political candidates pander to religion and arguing that, because Obama pandered, he must, necessarily, be hiding a secret alternate religious conviction?

Recognizing that Obama's religious conviction is apparently not particularly profound is not a conspiracy theory.

You apparently believe, furiousxgeorge, that Obama is a genuine man of faith. I don't know what evidence you have seen to support that, given that Obama's religious activity is, as far as I can tell, identical millions of other Americans who go to church and baptize their kids because that's what you do in the community and because they recognize the social benefits to doing that rather than taking a position of agnosticism or atheism that might alienate them from various groups of people that they don't want to alienate.

which secret belief he is hiding behind his phony religion.

I don't think he's hiding any secret belief. I don't think there's any conspiracy. He's just pandering. That's what politicians do. They pander.

But whatever. You think, for some reason, that Obama is the first true believer capital "C" Christian in the White House in the last 30 years? That's up to you. I think you're wrong, though.
posted by The World Famous at 5:02 PM on February 24, 2011


I forgot you were a religious bigot

You sure do like that word.
posted by empath at 5:28 PM on February 24, 2011



I forgot you were a religious bigot

You sure do like that word.


i tend to think anybody with a certain amount of intelligence, education and intellectual curiosity can't possibly be sincerely religious.


Uh-huh, clearly unwarranted.

Do you not see the difference between acknowledging that political candidates pander to religion and arguing that, because Obama pandered, he must, necessarily, be hiding a secret alternate religious conviction?

I don't think he's hiding any secret belief.


He is necessarily holding some other belief about the nature of the universe if he is lying about being Christian. Pandering is the EXACT reason birthers give for why he pretends to be Christian. Exact same.

YOU NEED EVIDENCE.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:35 PM on February 24, 2011


Pandering is the EXACT reason birthers give for why he pretends to be Christian. Exact same.

Are you just trying to argue semantics so that you can be technically correct about whether or not I'm making part of one of the parts of one of the arguments that birthers use to advance one of their other arguments?

Are you saying you don't think Obama has pandered to religious voters? Or that, even if he has, it's improper to point that out because otherwise I'm a birther? I don't understand your point.

Seriously, what's your point?

YOU NEED EVIDENCE.

Evidence of what, and for what purpose?

Are you contending that Obama is a genuine man of deep religious conviction and that he does not and has never pandered to religious voters?
posted by The World Famous at 5:41 PM on February 24, 2011


YOU NEED EVIDENCE.

I would think that the extraordinary, evidence-requiring claim would be that a politician is being honest.
posted by empath at 5:50 PM on February 24, 2011




Are you just trying to argue semantics so that you can be technically correct about whether or not I'm making part of one of the parts of one of the arguments that birthers use to advance one of their other arguments?


Semantics? PART? You believe Obama is faking Christianity to hide his true beliefs, the only difference between that and birtherism is the nature of the hidden belief.

I am contending that Obama is a Christian, as he claims he is, as he proved by decades of religious practice. The burden of proof is not on me here.

I would think that the extraordinary, evidence-requiring claim would be that a politician is being honest.


If you're a twelve year old who just discovered Rush Limbaugh or DU, sure, conspiracy theories are equally valid as actual evidence.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:51 PM on February 24, 2011


Semantics? PART? You believe Obama is faking Christianity to hide his true beliefs, the only difference between that and birtherism is the nature of the hidden belief.

The only difference between that and birtherism is that birthers use that conclusion as the illogical jumping-off point for a completely unsupported additional factual conclusion. I didn't say Obama is faking Christianity and I didn't say he's hiding his true beliefs. I said he clearly and blatantly panders to religious voters.

Obama has pandered to religious voters. The fact that birthers use that fact as the jumping-off point for an unrelated and unsupported conclusion is irrelevant to the present discussion.

I am contending that Obama is a Christian, as he claims he is, as he proved by decades of religious practice.

And I'm saying that decades of what you call "religious practice" is not proof of present or past religious belief. Do you contend that it is?
posted by The World Famous at 6:01 PM on February 24, 2011


If you're a twelve year old who just discovered Rush Limbaugh or DU, sure, conspiracy theories are equally valid as actual evidence.

Okay, you get to have the last word. You win!
posted by empath at 6:12 PM on February 24, 2011


The only difference between that and birtherism is that birthers use that conclusion as the illogical jumping-off point

As do you, namely that he has hidden beliefs about gay marriage.

I agree with you, too. I have the impression that his position on the issue was religious pandering and that his involvement with religion generally (and the church or churches he has attended throughout his political career) is generally politically-motivated rather than out of a sense of personal belief. I think he's more committed to the overall political goals of his own philosophy of government (which includes equality) than he is to any dogmatic religious position.

It is just as flawed to jump to that conclusion as it is to jump to the conclusion that his alleged secret beliefs are that he is a fan of Allah.


And I'm saying that decades of what you call "religious practice" is not proof of present or past religious belief. Do you contend that it is?


Yes. Like if I see someone in the bar drinking beer everyday I consider it proof they like beer, not a sinister conspiracy to win the "want to have a beer with him vote" two decades later. I'm sure there may be a hidden conspiracy, but it doesn't get equal time with the obvious without proof.

Okay, you get to have the last word. You win!

What do you want me to say? "Sure, Empath, the truthers are clearly right since George Bush is a politician and therefore a liar! This combined with your bigoted belief that religious people can't be intelligent, educated or intellectually curious clearly establishes you as an intellect well above the 8th grade whiny teenager level!"
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:17 PM on February 24, 2011


How about not engaging in gratuitous personal attacks and acting like an adult?
posted by empath at 6:32 PM on February 24, 2011


Sorry, I believe in God and therefore can't possibly attain your level of intelligence and intellect.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:33 PM on February 24, 2011


OR AM I FAKING IT?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:38 PM on February 24, 2011


As do you, namely that he has hidden beliefs about gay marriage.

When did I say that Obama has hidden beliefs about gay marriage? I don't remember saying that. I think you're arguing with me about something I haven't asserted.

I said: "I have the impression that his position on the issue was religious pandering and that his involvement with religion generally (and the church or churches he has attended throughout his political career) is generally politically-motivated rather than out of a sense of personal belief. I think he's more committed to the overall political goals of his own philosophy of government (which includes equality) than he is to any dogmatic religious position."

I still have that impression.

Like if I see someone in the bar drinking beer everyday I consider it proof they like beer, not a sinister conspiracy to win the "want to have a beer with him vote" two decades later.

You keep using the word "conspiracy," but I'm not sure what you mean, since you're using it in a way that doesn't appear to conform to what it means. Do you mean "long-term political plan?" If I see someone in the bar drinking beer everyday with their boss, I wonder if they're just there because they want their boss to think they have something in common.

I don't think Obama's church attendance was part of a long-term plan to someday be elected President. I think church attendance and participation in local religious communities has certain pragmatic results in both the short term and the long term. Maybe Obama is a true believer. Or maybe he's just a lukewarm believer. I have no idea what Obama's actual personal religious beliefs are. But church attendance doesn't convince me. I would guess that 75% of the people who go to church regularly in the United States do it out of a sense of social or family obligation or out of a pragmatic desire to belong to a community, rather than out of a consistent, deep, religious conviction.

OR AM I FAKING IT?

I don't know. Are you a politician who has a lot to gain politically from professing religious belief? If not a politician, are you someone who participates actively in a community where a lack of religious belief would hurt your career or standing in the community? Do you claim to disagree with the unpopular religious teachings of a high-profile preacher in the congregation that you regularly attend? If your answer to either of those questions is "yes," that might influence my opinion.

I, too, believe in God. And I actively participate in my religious community and services. Based on those two facts, can you tell me how strong my religious convictions are with respect to specific questions of public policy? I can tell you honestly that my personal views on the legal status of same-sex marriage differ substantially from the official position of my religion. But do you believe me when I say that, or does the fact that I have actively participated in my religion for decades mean that I can't possibly disagree with my church about anything?
posted by The World Famous at 6:50 PM on February 24, 2011


I just want to underscore what I think is the most important part of the point that I've been making but that I think you're missing for some reason, furiousxgeorge:

I think Obama is more committed to the overall political goals of his own philosophy of government (which includes equality) than he is to any dogmatic religious position.

That has nothing to do with conspiracies or secret religious beliefs or anything like that. It's what I perceive in Obama as a hierarchy of policy motivations. I hope I'm right.
posted by The World Famous at 7:10 PM on February 24, 2011


[few comments removed - time to dial it back some and not turn this into some personal hollering match that should go to email. Once the thread becomes one guy vs everyone it's sort of not that great.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:38 PM on February 24, 2011


But you do not have evidence that his religious views are not contained in his overall political philosophy of equality. You WANT that to be the case just like the birthers want him to be Muslim, but there is no evidence it is the case.

I have no idea what Obama's actual personal religious beliefs are.


But you are damn sure he doesn't actually believe them.

I would guess that 75% of the people who go to church regularly in the United States do it out of a sense of social or family obligation or out of a pragmatic desire to belong to a community, rather than out of a consistent, deep, religious conviction.

Guys, trust me, people actually believe in religion. They do. The inability to grok that kind of explains why you can't fathom Obama doesn't see eye to eye with you on the gay marriage thing. Really. People, smart and intelligent people, believe in God and make decisions based on that belief. It's not rare or exceptional.

You can't guess it away and claim that is equal to the evidence of decades of religious practice.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:52 PM on February 24, 2011


But you do not have evidence that his religious views are not contained in his overall political philosophy of equality. You WANT that to be the case just like the birthers want him to be Muslim, but there is no evidence it is the case.

I'm not sure I want (in all caps) it to be the case. It's my observation. There is evidence, but you are not convinced by it. And that's fine. It's OK for you and me to disagree.

Me: I have no idea what Obama's actual personal religious beliefs are.

You: But you are damn sure he doesn't actually believe them.

I think we're talking past each other here. I am absolutely 100% certain that Obama actually believes in his actual personal beliefs. By definition, he actually believes in his actual beliefs.

Guys, trust me, people actually believe in religion. They do.

Yes, I know that. I'm one of them.

People, smart and intelligent people, believe in God and make decisions based on that belief.

Yes, I know that. I'm one of them.
posted by The World Famous at 8:11 PM on February 24, 2011


There is evidence

No, there is not. You have not presented any. In fact, "I have no idea what Obama's actual personal religious beliefs are." makes it pretty clear you have twisted up your argument so hard you don't even believe yourself anymore.

It's OK for you and me to disagree.

It's okay for me and the truthers to disagree too, but I'm not gonna pretend they have any evidence for the sake of politeness.

I think we're talking past each other here. I am absolutely 100% certain that Obama actually believes in his actual personal beliefs. By definition, he actually believes in his actual beliefs.

If you refuse to let him define his own personal beliefs, this statement is meaningless. You believe he believes something, fine. Birthers believe he believes in Allah.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:07 PM on February 24, 2011


I'm taking this to MeFiMail.
posted by The World Famous at 9:22 PM on February 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


empath : "i tend to think anybody with a certain amount of intelligence, education and intellectual curiosity can't possibly be sincerely religious."

Interestingly enough, just last year you made a Metatalk thread that we both participated extensively in, in which you complained bitterly about the fact that Catholics were being unfairly stereotyped here on MeFi and proclaimed how offended you were that Catholics were being accused of guilt by association with their Church.

You're now accusing people who are religious to be low-intelligence, uneducated, incurious liars. Nice.

That's a rather profound display of cognitive dissonance.
posted by zarq at 9:10 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


By the way, if the reason I bring this up isn't obvious, you were complaining in that thread that people were making lulzy comments, engaging in Catholic-bashing and spouting lazy, ignorant stereotypes.

Your comment is an example of the latter, at the very least. Since we had an extensive discussion about it initiated by you just 12 months ago, it would be really, really nice if you didn't do the exact same thing here that you were upset about back then.
posted by zarq at 9:18 AM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're now accusing people who are religious to be low-intelligence, uneducated, incurious liars.

Well, sure if you put it THAT way.
posted by empath at 9:25 AM on February 25, 2011


Gay Marriage Seems to Wane as Conservative Issue -- "The reserved Republican response suggests President Obama may suffer little political damage as he evolves into a more aggressive advocate of gay rights."
posted by ericb at 11:21 AM on February 25, 2011






I'm convinced that Alan Keyes is a performance artist in the middle of a lifelong prank. Nobody dumb enough to say the things he says would be smart enough not to put their suit on backwards and get lost on the way to give the speech.
posted by The World Famous at 12:05 PM on February 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Better link to Jon Stewart segment.
posted by ericb at 12:06 PM on February 25, 2011


empath : " Well, sure if you put it THAT way."

See, I'm convinced we're on the same side in this. We both want this place to be filled with thoughtful and relatively civil discussions, yes?

I'm just saying if that's what you want, just as it's what I want, saying stuff like that isn't a great way to get there.
posted by zarq at 1:44 PM on February 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Republican strategist: Gay marriage wedge has lost its edge.
posted by ericb at 3:20 PM on February 25, 2011




DOMA for Dummies.
posted by ericb at 2:07 PM on February 28, 2011








Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Launches 'Repeal DOMA' Website.
posted by ericb at 4:14 PM on March 2, 2011






Guantanamo next, please.

Nope: Obama lifts suspension on military terror trials at Guantánamo Bay
posted by homunculus at 5:59 PM on March 7, 2011


Oh well, it's okay when Democrats do it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:50 PM on March 8, 2011


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