New bill would block federal judges from hearing key gay-marriage casesOff the Courtby Alan Hirsch
We've been watching the wrong game.
With attention focused on the doomed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, the media, general public, and gay rights supporters are overlooking a more lively threat: H.R. 3313, the so-called Marriage Protection Act.
The constitutional amendment was merely an opportunity for conservative members of Congress to throw red meat to the base. Opponents of same-sex marriage knew the amendment wouldn't pass, so they crafted a fallback plan: the Marriage Protection Act, which says federal courts may not hear cases from gay couples challenging the eight-year-old federal law that prohibits them from marrying. If the bill passes, many states will refuse to recognize the marriage of a gay couple hitched in another state. Under today's rules, the couple could bring suit in federal court, asking that the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, be ruled unconstitutional. If the Marriage Protection Act becomes law, no federal court could take the case.
Does that sound outlandish? Brace yourself for a primer on the anti-gay approach to constitutional law. The conservatives' nightmare has long been that gay and lesbian couples will marry in Massachusetts or some other enlightened state, then be free to move anywhere and enjoy the state and federal benefits that accompany marriage. In 1996, they responded with DOMA, which declares that no state must recognize another state's marriage of a same-sex couple.