Minnesota senator Al Franken is supporting the Respect for Marriage Act of 2011. (Photo credit: Fox News)
According to same-sex marriage proponents, July 20, 2011 is a historic day for America, as the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on theRespect for Marriage Act of 2011 (bill S. 598). Rather than respect marriage though, S. 598 would oblige the federal government to recognize any legal definition of marriage from states. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D – CA) sponsored the bill along with 27 co-sponsors. S. 598 would radically alter the legal understanding of marriage at the federal level by repealing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which passed with overwhelming support only 15 years ago. Under DOMA, the definition of marriage for federal law is a union between one man and one woman. The proposed bill would require the federal government to grant all benefits of marriage, financial and otherwise, to married gay couples. Further, it would require states where same-sex marriage is illegal to recognize same-sex unions from other states.
Support for S. 598 in the hearing was overwhelming, as witnesses shared emotional first hand accounts of “discrimination” from DOMA. Among these personal testimonies, defenders of traditional marriage faced biased questioning and misrepresentation. During questioning, Sen. Al Franken (D – MN) accused Thomas Minnery from Focus on the Family of lying about findings from a Department of Health and Human Services report. Minnery stated that the report found the best home for children to be a “nuclear family,” with a father and mother. Franken took issue with this statement because the report does not explicitly define “nuclear family” as a family with heterosexual parents, but Minnery interpreted it that way. It is true the study does not state the two parents of a “nuclear family” are necessarily a man and a woman, but using a bit of common sense, one must come to this conclusion because data on same-sex parenting is quite limited. Apparently not using this logic, Franken said, “I frankly don’t really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony if you are reading studies these ways.”
Further outrageous accusations came when witness Andrew Sorbo called DOMA’s defenders the “philosophic descendants” from proponents of slavery. If this accusation is true, then many of S. 598’s supporters have quickly and dramatically altered their heritage. Edward Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, pointed out that “of the eight current members of this Committee who voted on DOMA in 1996, seven voted for DOMA.”
Testimonies from gay marriage proponents were clearly intended to draw a sympathetic response and ignore the issue of redefining marriage. The first witness was Ron Wallen of California, who had been married to his life-long partner since 2008. Wallen shared his story about the financial difficulties he faced since his partner, Tom, passed away. Because of DOMA, he could not claim Tom’s Social Security, and was unable to afford the costs of his home. In a hyperbolic statement, he said in his situation the “federal government [was] throwing me out of my own home.”
Another witness, Andrew Sorbo of Connecticut, shared a similar story in which his long time partner and eventual husband died, leaving him with financial difficulties. Sorbo was unable to inherit his partner’s pension, and his income decreased by 80%. Further, he said the “psychological effects” of DOMA were as bad as the financial issues, and that DOMA was an “insult to dignity.”
Although emotionally stirring, the stories witnesses shared did not address the heart of the issue, which is determining the true definition of marriage. Whelan said that the Respect for Marriage Act “would empty the term [marriage] of any core content.” Whelan warned that this would likely include polyamorous and polygamous unions in the future, because there would no longer be any foundation for a limited definition of marriage.
Thomas Minnery testified about the potential harms of S. 598. One major threat posed is the “forced political correctness” resulting from legalizing same-sex marriage. Minnery cited Parker v. Hurley, a case from Massachusetts in which a father ended up in jail for trespassing after a long-fought battle to protect his six year old son from public school curriculum promoting homosexual relationships. According to Minnery, the judge in the Parker case determined that “since same-sex marriage is now part of Massachusetts society and culture, it can be taught to public school students without parental permission.” What was once recognized as a sincere belief about the true nature of marriage is now seen as bigotry, as same-sex marriage becomes legally implemented and purported as a right.
If the Respect for Marriage Act of 2011 passes, it will be a historic event for Americans on both sides of the issue. Those who defend DOMA and the traditional definition of marriage will surely face discrimination, as gay marriage supporters preaching complete acceptance clearly practice it selectively.