On Thursday Tobias Wolff, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania, faced of with the National Organization for Marriage's Maggie Gallagher on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight.
In the debate, Maggie cannot come up with an answer to the question about how same-sex marriage assaults the "institution" of marriage. She also blames "four judges in Massachusetts" for "gay marriage" not "homosexuals." Huh? I see, so then I can blame the government for the high divorce rate in this country because it enacted divorce laws, not the cheating spouses that cause many divorces. Rock on.
DOBBS: Another promise made by the president during his campaign, to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. The Clinton-era law recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman, allows states to ignore same- sex marriages from other states and withholds federal marriage rights for same-sex couples. Here now to debate the issue on our face-off tonight is Maggie Gallagher. She is the president of the National Organization for Marriage.
Good to have you with us, Maggie.
MAGGIE GALLAGHER, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE: Thank you.
DOBBS: And Tobias Wolff, law professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Good to have you with us.
TOBIAS WOLFF, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Thank you, Lou.
DOBBS: Let's turn to first what the administration said in its brief in defending the act this week. It reads, "The administration believes the Defense of Marriage Act is discriminatory and should be repealed," that according to the Justice Department.
Maggie, you say you were shocked by this brief. Why so?
GALLAGHER: Well, there's two issues of trust. One is, yes, it's true the Obama -- the candidate had a position paper that he's against the Defense of Marriage Act. But he also went in a big publicized interview, and he promised the American people in an interview with Rick Warren that although he's for equal rights for gay people, he doesn't include marriage among them. And now his administration is filing a brief saying the one federal law that defends marriage as one man and one woman is discriminatory.
But there's a second level of trust here. I mean, both gay marriage advocates and gay marriage opponents are concerned because this is a brief in which the administration says it's against DOMA and then pretends that it's trying to defend it.
DOBBS: Right. OK.
GALLAGHER: But there's more shocking things in there than what you said on the stage.
DOBBS: All right. Well, we're going to get to those. We're going to get to those.
GALLAGHER: Sure, OK. Thanks.
DOBBS: Tobias, your reaction? Do you agree with what Maggie said?
WOLFF: Well, I don't. And let's be clear about what this statute is about. There are six states right now and a bunch of folks in California as well -- six states that allow gay and lesbian couples to get married. This is about whether those couples are going to be discriminated against by the federal government. This has nothing to do with the federal government telling states what they have to do in their marriage policies.
DOBBS: Well, here's the Justice Department saying it's discriminatory.
DOBBS: And at the same time defending it.
WOLFF: Well, I'll tell you the Justice Department is...
DOBBS: Work us through -- work through that one.
WOLFF: They are in a rotten situation here. And here is why. They want this statute repealed, as does the president and his administration. There is a longstanding tradition that the Justice Department...
DOBBS: Then why not do it?
WOLFF: Well, there's a difference between repealing a statute, which the president is working with Congress to do right now...
WOLFF: And by the way, it's part of the Democratic party platform to get rid of this statute. It's time for Congress to step up to the plate and start working on it. There's a difference between that and what the Justice Department's obligation is when there's a constitutional challenge brought to a statute.
WOLFF: Now, let me just say...
DOBBS: Let me just interrupt, if I may.
WOLFF: Yes, sir.
DOBBS: This is where the economists describe President Obama. Barack Obama tends to become incoherent when discussing gay rights. During the campaign he said he supported equal rights for gays, but also that marriage should be between a man and a woman. How do you -- you know, I mean, what you say is fine. But wouldn't marriage be a fundamental right? And why would there be any equivocation?
WOLFF: Well, let me tell you, Lou. I agree with you about that. And I spent a lot of time working for the campaign and having respectful (ph)...
DOBBS: Well, I'm not taking a position. I'm just asking...
WOLFF: Well, I hear you. But what the Defense of Marriage Act is about is not telling states who's allowed to get married and who's not. What it's about is whether the federal government is going to discriminate against couples who are legally married in their states.
DOBBS: Well, it says here...
WOLFF: It's about...
DOBBS: ... the Justice Department says it's discriminatory.
DOBBS: But they're going to defend it.
That's a bizarre position, Maggie, for them to be in and for the government to be in. Isn't it?
GALLAGHER: Well, even worse is they're pretending to defend it. But in response to pressure from political groups, they've changed their argument. The federal government is now saying the Obama administration is telling the courts in your behalf and mine that the government has no interest at all in bringing together biological parents to raise their children together.
It is repudiating the idea that marriage has anything to do with mothers and fathers raising children together, which is the one great argument that all the liberal courts who have upheld marriage: New York, Maryland, Washington. They've always done it on that reason.
DOBBS: May I ask a...
GALLAGHER: So it's very deceptive, I think, what he's doing.
DOBBS: Yes, well, it's deceptive. It's confounding in terms of reason. Of all of the things that I have seen over the course of my career, you know, listening as an assault on heterosexual marriage, I have never seen -- and you correct me. I mean, where does gay marriage stand? Where is it in the queue for threat against heterosexual marriage?
GALLAGHER: Well, I think...
DOBBS: And what is the causal relationship?
GALLAGHER: Well, I think that when the government changes the definition of marriage, it changes for everyone. And when the government says the idea that marriage...
DOBBS: No, I'm not (inaudible) about -- no, no, no. Excuse me, please.
DOBBS: I'm not asking -- I'm not asking anybody to change the definition of anything. I'm just asking you how is a heterosexual couple in marriage in any way assaulted by a homosexual couple in marriage.
GALLAGHER: Well, because the government has changed what marriage is. For a lot of us, Lou, a marriage is a husband and wife. And the government is proposing to change that.
GALLAGHER: The Obama administration is saying that idea is discriminatory. Our children are going to be taught that by public schools, that our ideas of marriage are discriminatory.
GALLAGHER: It's hard enough to raise, you know, people...
DOBBS: All right.
WOLFF: Let's bring this down.
GALLAGHER: It's hard enough to get men and women together to do this thing without our government saying and the Obama administration saying the idea itself is discriminatory.
DOBBS: Well, my God. I'm sorry.
WOLFF: Let's bring this down to some real specifics. This is about couples who have been together for 30 years being denied their full Social Security benefits. This is about couples being denied access to health care. This is about couples who are being denied equal treatment in the tax laws after they've spent their entire lives...
DOBBS: But you would have that if you had civil union.
WOLFF: ... paying federal taxes.
DOBBS: You would have that if you had civil unions.
WOLFF: What you have...
DOBBS: See, those arguments are not particularly persuasive.
WOLFF: Not true. Let me make sure you understand.
DOBBS: Please do.
WOLFF: This is about the federal government taking couples who are legally married and saying we are not going to give you equal access to the Social Security benefits that every married couple in this country is entitled to.
GALLAGHER: Listen, if...
WOLFF: That's what this is about.
GALLAGHER: ... the only trouble.
WOLFF: That's what this is about.
GALLAGHER: If you have a trouble with Social Security, you could amend that act. You don't need to go into court...
DOBBS: All right.
WOLFF: Well, Ms. Gallagher, are you out there?
GALLAGHER: ... and say that marriage itself is discriminatory.
WOLFF: Are you out there trying to fight for equal treatment for gay and lesbian couples in Social Security?
GALLAGHER: What I'm trying to fight for -- it's funny that you talk about the tradition...
WOLFF: Are you the one who's going to take away Social Security benefits from gay and lesbian couples?
GALLAGHER: ... of the Justice Department.
WOLFF: Are you the one who's going to take health care benefits away from people who need them?
GALLAGHER: I am the one who is standing for the right of American taxpayers not to have a union, same-sex union treated as marriage without their consent.
DOBBS: OK, I...
WOLFF: And there are six states that have said that they want gay and lesbian couples to be treated equally in our marriage laws.
GALLAGHER: And the federal government overwhelmingly...
WOLFF: And the federal government should step out of the way.
GALLAGHER: The federal government overwhelmingly, bipartisanly said the federal definition of marriage is one man and one woman. And I support that. And I think the Obama administration should live up to its campaign promise to support marriage and change its mind.
WOLFF: They should absolutely live up to their promise to repeal this statute, yes.
DOBBS: Well, apparently there are two promises here implicit that would satisfy one of you or the other, but not both. Let me again go to this thing because the Defense of Marriage is sort of a peculiar construction. When the primary, as everything I've been able to study -- the primary reason for divorce is financial. One in two marriages in this country, heterosexual marriages, ends in divorce.
We are watching two-thirds in some cases of children born out of wedlock. We have a disaster in this country. And, I mean, it could be argued, it seems to me, at least -- and forgive me for saying it this way -- that you're blaming homosexuals for an institution that's under assault from just about everyone but gays.
GALLAGHER: I'm not blaming homosexuals for anything. It's four judges in Massachusetts, not homosexuals, who brought us gay marriage.
GALLAGHER: And it's a bunch of Democratic legislatures in blue states who are not, as far as I know, gay. Some of them may be -- who brought us gay marriage in those states. This is a political movement to change the law. It's going to have a lot of consequences.
I do not understand how we can possibly rebuild a marriage culture with the president of the United States and the government saying the idea that marriage means a husband and wife, because you need a mother and father, is discriminatory. That's the problem. These aren't separate battles. They're related.
DOBBS: You get the last word, very quickly.
WOLFF: Look, at the end of the day, this is about treating people fairly and equally and with dignity. And getting rid of the Defense of Marriage Act is going to allow us to get the federal government out of the way of states who have made that decision.
DOBBS: Thank you both.
Maggie, appreciate you being here.
Tobias, thank you.
WOLFF: Thank you.