Respect of Marriage Act Seeks to Silence Voters, Says Policy Analyst

Correction appended

A policy analyst denounces the proposed Respect of Marriage Act introduced in the Senate Wednesday as a tool to redefine marriage in the federal government as well as in the 30 states that had define marriage in their constitution as between one man and a one woman.

Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow for policy at the Family Research Council, says the Respect for Marriage Act – introduced during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday – poses more harm to traditional definitions of marriage than the number of lawsuits waged against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

While the lawsuits challenge the federal definition of marriage, Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) plan would clear the path for others to challenge states where traditional marriage is written into the constitution.

"The bill would repeal both parts of the Defense of Marriage Act so that it would make it much easier to force other states to recognize same-sex marriage," said Sprigg.

DOMA defines marriage as between a man and a woman for the benefit of federal agencies and federal laws. The Clinton-era law also allows states the right to decide the marriage laws independently of the federal laws and the laws of other states.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-N.H.), who led the Wednesday hearing challenging DOMA, asserted, "Nothing in this [Respect of Marriage Act] bill would obligate any person, religious organization or state body to perform a marriage between persons of the same sex."

Yet Democrats openly stated that their bill would strike DOMA from federal law.

Focus on the Family Vice President for Public Policy Tom Minnery called Feinstein and other Respect of Marriage Act supporters out for "ignoring" the impact that repealing DOMA would have on states.

“The [Respect of Marriage] bill’s revocation of [DOMA’s] section two is an attempt to undermine the policies, laws and constitutions of the vast majority for whom marriage is a settled issue. The only reason for doing so is to once again place the issue in the hands of judges and to take the issue out of the hands of people who have already spoken so clearly in so many states,” he said.

In 31 states, voters overwhelmingly voted to keep marriage between a man and a woman.

An Alliance Defense Fund/ Public Opinion Strategies poll also found that 62 percent of Americans still believe that marriage should be defined only as a union between one and one woman.

"Americans understand marriage," ADF Senior Legal Counsel Austin R. Nimocks testified at the hearing. "Since 1998 over 32 jurisdictions have voted on marriage it's passed by an average of 63 percent. They don't need a legislature to define it for them."

Minnery also defended parents' right to teach their children the biblical view of marriage.

On the other hand, witnesses such as Connecticut resident Andrew Sorbo and Vermont's Susan Murray testified how the federal law inhibits homosexuals from claiming the benefits of their deceased partners and caring for their partners when they are sick.

Feinstein said "DOMA was wrong in 1996 and it is wrong today."

However, Nimocks defended DOMA stating, "The union between husband and wife benefits society –especially children – in unique and special ways that cannot be duplicated by any other relationship."

He said of the Respect of Marriage Act in a statement, "Once again, the government is forcing something on the people that we have repeatedly rejected."

Sprigg says the proposed bill also seeks to force those who do agree that heterosexual and homosexual unions are equal to remain silent.

"The goal is to make it socially if not legally impossible for people to say that there is anything wrong with engaging in a homosexual relationship or to say that there is in anyway preferable to engage in a heterosexual marriage rather than to engage in a homosexual relationship," he said.

Last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center added FRC to its list of hate groups for stating that same-sex parenting is harmful to children.

Sprigg said of the hate labels, "It's clear now that the homosexual agenda is not pushing an agenda of tolerance. They're not asking to be left alone; they're demanding the official public affirmation, celebration and subsidization of their sexual relationships."

Despite President Barack Obama's endorsement of the Respect for Marriage Act, it is unlikely to pass the Republican-dominated House to make its way to his desk.

Correction: Monday, July 25, 2011:
An article on July 21, 2011, about the Respect of Marriage Act incorrectly quoted Austin Nimocks as saying, "Since 1968 over 32 jurisdictions have voted on marriage it's passed by an average of 63 percent. They don't need a legislature to define it for them." Americans have been voting for marriage since 1998.

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