Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bold and Honorable Words from Our New Democrat

Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) wrote the following op-ed, which was published this morning. I was very impressed. Well said, Senator.


     The time has come to repeal the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Enacted 13 years ago when the idea of same sex marriage was struggling for acceptance, the Act is a relic of a more tradition-bound time and culture.
     Connecticut, Iowa, and Massachusetts have already passed laws recognizing same sex marriage and other states are moving in that direction. The states are the proper forum to address this divisive social and moral issue, not the Federal Government with a law that attempts to set one national standard for marriage.
     Prohibition showed just how difficult it is to enforce law establishing standards of personal behavior or morality. Coercion, whether civic or legal, in matters of this kind rarely works. It certainly won't halt public controversy surrounding the issue.
     The repeal of DOMA is one step among several designed to fully integrate and protect the rights of gays and lesbians in American society. Recently enacted hate crimes legislation is another. The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S 909), which I sponsored with the late Senator Kennedy, makes it a federal crime to target victims on the basis of disability, sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity. President Obama has said he will sign the measure.
     Nothing in the Act impedes the lawful expression of one's political or religious beliefs. All Americans are entitled to hold and express their own beliefs, no matter how provocative. At the same time, no person has the right to engage in violent acts of hate or incite to violence. Protecting Americans against such hate crimes does not inhibit free speech but rather serves us all by halting and penalizing those who carry out those acts of cruelty.
     Measures to combat discrimination against gays and transgendered people in the workplace are another needed measure. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2009, of which I am an original cosponsor, was introduced on August 5, 2009 and is currently before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
     Finally, the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy is outdated, and should be rescinded entirely. A person's sexual orientation has no bearing on their ability to serve their country in the armed services. Countless studies and the experiences of gays who have served in the military have borne out these findings.


ShamRockNRoll said...

I'm kind of rooting for Specter's primary opponent, because I think after the election Specter will drift back to the right... but, if he keeps this stuff up, that will be good.

Anonymous said...

Excluding all the numerous statements in that op-ed that are about something other than DOMA, Arlen seems to be making three basic assertions in connection with DOMA here.

First, he says that "the Act is a relic of a more tradition-bound time and culture." Ah, yes – 1996, when dinosaurs walked the earth. (As an aside, I'm assuming that "the Act" refers to DOMA here, even though he just introduced "DOMA" as a defined term and appears to use "the Act" later on refer to other legislation – did anyone bother to edit this piece?) Seriously, though, even if he's right about that, there is absolutely nothing in Specter's observation that amounts to a reason to repeal DOMA.

Next, Specter suggests that this "divisive issue" should be dealt with by the states, not in federal statute. Two obvious questions present themselves: (1) Does DOMA accomplish anything that could be accomplished by a state law? (2) Could states do anything to deal with this issue if DOMA were repealed that they can't do if DOMA stays on the books? Since the answer to both questions is "No", one is hard-pressed to find anything relevant to DOMA repeal about Specter's comment regarding the states.

Next, Specter makes a group of related comments regarding Prohibition, coercion, etc. The only reason one can imagine he has for saying these things is that he's trying to argue that DOMA should be repealed because it "doesn't work". But seriously, Senator – does anyone think Prohibition and DOMA are similar cases from an enforcement (or a coercion) perspective? When you say "matters of this kind", are you sure you're talking about things that are really of the same kind? We've had DOMA for over a dozen years. What are the enforcement problems?

Does Specter's op-ed actually provide any argument in favor of repealing DOMA? I don't see one there, which strikes me as a pretty serious omission in an op-ed entitled "Time to Repeal DOMA". DOMA supporters will just roll their eyes at this op-ed, but DOMA opponents should be a little pissed off at what a poor job Specter (or his ghostwriters) did. With enemies like Specter, DOMA hardly needs friends.

Anonymous said...

On the topic of DADT, which Specter mentions at the end of the op-ed, I see that Specter throws in a further bit of illogic when he goes on to say "a person's sexual orientation has no bearing on their [sic] ability to serve their [sic] country in the armed services." DADT is obviously not premised on the idea that a person's sexual orientation, as such, bears on his ability to serve his country in the military. "Do Ask, Do Tell" might potentially (though not necessarily) have such a premise, but not "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".