Congressman Barney Frank, powerful chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, told 360gay.com that he hoped the Supreme Court wouldn't hear a challenge on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) while Antonin Scalia was on the court because that particular justice was a "homophobe."
Consider a short history lesson. The Defense of Marriage Act was debated in the Congress in September of 1996 when it appeared that the Hawaii supreme court was going to rule in favor of recognizing gay marriage. Because of the U.S. Constitution's "full faith and credit" clause, Hawaii's recognizing same-sex marriage would obligate all states to recognize any marriage performed in Hawaii -- gay or straight.
So, DOMA was introduced and would change federal law thusly:
- No state (or other political subdivision within the United States) need treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state.
- The Federal Government may not treat same-sex relationships as marriages for any purpose, even if concluded or recognized by one of the states.
Now, this bill passed the House 342-67. Even though Republicans were in the majority, more than two-thirds of Democrats supported it. Similarly, it sailed through the Senate with an equally overwhelming bi-partisan (so to speak) 85-14 margin.
President Clinton quickly signed it. In an interview with the gay magazine, The Advocate that year, Clinton said, "I remain opposed to same-sex marriage. I believe marriage is an institution for the union of a man and a woman. This has been my long-standing position, and it is not being reviewed or reconsidered."
So, assuming that the bipartisan majorities that passed DOMA believed the bill to be constitutional, are all of those Republicans and Democrats "homophobes"?
Last year on the campaign trail, neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama supported the notion of same-sex marriage -- though both are strong advocates for civil unions. Are they "homophobes"? (Well, presumably not Obama since he now says that he would support overturning DOMA (Chuck Schumer, who voted for it in the House twelve years ago, recently switched on the issue).
In short, perhaps Mr. Frank might like to admit that honest, non-bigoted people might be opposed to same-sex marriage -- without being homophobes. But, of course, for Frank, only Republicans can be homophobes.
Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots.