Friday, February 25, 2011

By King's Decree, No DOMA

Barack Obama's Cap
The debate over the definition of marriage will never end as long as there are people of differing opinions willing to argue the point. It is no different than any other hotly contested issue, which is why this nation was founded upon the rule of law. And it is more precisely why our presidents and representatives are required to swear an oath to uphold our founding document.

For a man who claims to be a Constitutional scholar, President Obama certainly seems to frequently misunderstand - and run afoul - of it. When he rammed through his Holy Grail program "universal health care" into law, with the help of a friendly Congress, one of the mandates was for citizens to purchase a product (insurance) whether they wanted to or not. Some argued that this constituted a new tax, something Obama campaigned against in his run to Pennsylvania Avenue, and which he vehemently denied when the charge arose.

When challenges to the new law pointed out that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to force its citizens to purchase goods, Obama switched gears and attempted to use the Commerce Clause. When that was challenged, Obama had to admit that the mandate was indeed a new tax in order to fall under the umbrella of the Commerce Clause.

Painted into a corner, Obama ultimately decided that it would be better to break a promise than to break a law. But the incident underscored either Obama's ignorance of, or his contempt for, the Constitution.

This week, on February 23rd, the Obama administration once again split the balance beam of constitutionality with a thud, announcing that the Department of Justice would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the courts. DOMA, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996 after passing in both houses of Congress by large majorities, essentially prevents the federal government from recognizing the validity of same-sex marriages.

I am not here to argue the merits of the law, but rather to point out that it is...the law. Laws are made and repealed on a fluid basis, and citizens are not permitted to follow only those with which they agree. Try telling the highway patrol officer handing you a ticket that you think 55MPH is a stupid law, and tell me how that worked out.

The President of the United States is not only not above the law, but bound by oath to enforce and defend it. Yet in the case of DOMA, and Wednesday's announcement that the Obama Justice Department will no longer defend a law with which they disagree, the president has broken his vow to "preserve and protect" the laws of the United States. In other words, he has become the final arbiter of which laws he will uphold and defend. That, in and of itself, is unconstitutional. As Newt Gingrich recently said:

“First of all, he campaigned in favor of [the law]. He is breaking his word to the American people.
Second, he swore an oath on the Bible to become president that he would uphold the Constitution and enforce the laws of the United States. He is not a one-person Supreme Court. The idea that we now have the rule of Obama instead of the rule of law should frighten everybody. 
The fact that the left likes the policy is allowing them to ignore the fact that this is a very unconstitutional act."
 Again, on whatever side of gay marriage one falls in the ideological spectrum is secondary at this point. What is paramount is how Obama will defend his indefensible actions. The question of his Constitutional acumen also raises its head again. Maybe he can backtrack and say that his oath on the Bible is invalid because his Holy Book is the Qur'an?

Just a hunch. After all, he has a past propensity to break promises in lieu of breaking the law. He may have made a worthy courtroom attorney, but Constitutional scholar remains doubtful. 

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westwood said...

Interesting point. But I suspect there is more to it than that. I personally would argue that DOMA is unconstitutional. What avenues should have been pursued to 'legitimately' strike in down, in your opinion?

Keep in mind I am fairly ignorant of how American politics works, since I live in that northern land of gay marriage and free healthcare.

Justin said...

Maybe the Republicans should just defund Obamacare without changing any rules or voting to do so. When the White House and the Dems cry "foul," we'll just explain how we're advocates of a "living, breathing, interpretation" of the Obamacare legislation.