Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rep. Barney Frank Won't Co-Sponsor DOMA Partial Repeal; Bill Author Rep. Nadler Responds

Openly gay Rep. Barney Frank has declined to co-sponsor Rep. Jerry Nadler's partial Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) repeal because he doesn't believe in the strategy and feels different issues are more pressing for the LGBT population.

"It's not anything that's achievable in the near term," Frank told the Washington Blade. "I think getting [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act], a repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' and full domestic partner benefits for federal employees will take up all of what we can do and maybe more in this Congress."

Frank also believes that the "certainty provision" of the repeal will cause more problems than fix. This provision will allow federal benefits to follow a married same-sex couple no matter if they live in a state that recognizes their marriage or if they move to one that doesn't.

"The provision that says you can take your benefits as you travel, I think, will stir up unnecessary opposition with regard to the question of are you trying to export it to other states," he said. "If we had a chance to pass that, it would be a different story, but I don't think it's a good idea to rekindle that debate when there's no chance of passage in the near term."

Frank believes the best offense against DOMA lies in two federal cases against the discriminatory bill. The first being the GLAD case Gil vs. Office of Personnel Management, which is aiming at Section 3 of DOMA which restricts federal recognition of same-sex marriages. The second case also aims at Section 3 which was filed by Massachusetts' Attorney General Martha Coakley, which claims that the federal government is interfering with Massachusetts' right to define marriage as it sees fit and as a result, discriminating against the state's legally married same-sex couples.

Rep. Nadler responded to Frank's concerns in a statement issued to the Blade, saying that such concerns shouldn't stop the bill's introduction.
"Mr. Frank knows better than anyone that our opponents will falsely claim that any DOMA repeal bill 'exports marriage' in an effort to generate fear and misunderstanding," Nadler said. "But the dishonest tactics of our opponents should not stop us from aggressively pushing to end this horrific discrimination now, as is the consensus of the nation's top LGBT groups who all support this approach."

Nadler emphasized that the proposed bill wouldn't force any state to marry gay couples or recognize same-sex couples under state law.

"Our bill allows states to continue deciding those questions, while ensuring uniform access to critically important federal responsibilities and rights that hinge on marriage and upon which all married couples should be able to rely," he said.

I am not one to question Barney Frank. His intelligence speaks volumes. But I feel that all valid efforts to win equal rights should be supported, especially right now when our chances are the best they've been in years with a Democratically controlled Congress and (this is debatable) an ally in the White House.

Though I do agree the federal cases against DOMA are smart and very powerful, to use this and the fact that Congress is too busy are very lame excuses.

As the always quotable Martin Luther King Jr. said, "A right delayed is a right denied." Oh, and "The time is always right to do what is right."

Doesn't mean it will always be pretty and that it won't cause confusion, but it's still right.


  1. I suspect that Barney is trying to protect Democrats who don't want to have to cast a "hard" vote. If they vote the right way, it will upset some of their constituents; if they vote against us, it will upset us. In any case, I don't plan to donate any more money to the Democrats until they actually deliver something tangible in the way of gay rights.

  2. Gary Cozette - ChicagoSeptember 14, 2009 at 9:44 PM

    It is very disappointing that a gay member of Congress would not support this effort to repeal of DOMA. He should have made this clear BEFORE the Nadler bill was announced. Now it looks like gay people and their allies are divided. This will further allow Obama to punt on his promise to repeal DOMA.