Spend just a little time paying attention to the news coming out of Washington, D.C. — or any state capitol, or any city hall — and you’ll probably wonder, as I do, if anyone in the “halls of power” actually pays any attention to anything their constituents says — outside, of course, of the polls that tell them what they need to say to get re-elected.
Yesterday, Dallas Voice reader Ron Heath of Fort Worth reinforced my belief that the “leaders” don’t pay any attention when he forwarded to me an email he had received in response after writing to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, one of two Republicans that represent Texas in Congress.
Heath had written to his senator about DOMA — the Defense of Marriage Act. Numerous lawsuits have been filed against DOMA, which prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages in any way, including those same-sex marriages conducted in jurisdictions where they legally recognized. Earlier this year, President Barack Obama instructed the Department of Justice not to continue to defend portions of DOMA in court, after which Republicans in the House of Representatives promptly decided to hire their own lawyers and pay them to defend DOMA.
Also, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote today on the Respect for Marriage Act, which would effectively repeal DOMA and give legally married same-sex couples the federal benefits, privileges and responsibilities they have so far been denied.
Ron Heath was encouraging Sen. Cornyn to vote in favor of repealing DOMA. Sen. Cornyn, or whoever reads his correspondence, apparently wasn’t paying any attention. Read Cornyn’s response to Heath after the jump:
Dear Mr. Heath:
Thank you for contacting me regarding President Barack Obama’s decision to order the Department of Justice (DOJ) to discontinue defending the Defense of Marriage Act (P.L. 104—199). I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on this important matter.
I strongly oppose President Obama’s decision to instruct the DOJ to stop defending the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. The President has elected to make this ill-informed decision based on political motivation, rather than defending a statute that was passed by Congress, signed into law by previous Administrations, and broadly supported by the American people. I firmly believe that both President Obama and his Administration have an obligation to defend and uphold federal law, regardless of personal ideology, and you may be certain that I will continue to monitor this matter closely.
As you may know, in 1996 Congress overwhelmingly passed — and former President Bill Clinton signed into law — the Defense of Marriage Act. This federal law defines marriage as “only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife” — I firmly support this position.
Under the laws, traditions, and customs of all fifty states, marriage has historically been defined as the union of a man and a woman. However, judicial rulings — and outright lawlessness by local officials in some states — have threatened traditional marriage and moved this debate onto the national stage. The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v. Texas provides lower courts with the leverage needed to invalidate traditional marriage laws. And the first major assault on traditional marriage came in Goodridge v. Mass. Dept. of Health, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court — citing the Lawrence decision — overturned that state’s traditional marriage law. Since this time, other activist state courts have followed Massachusetts’ lead. In light of these judicial trends, constitutional scholars on both sides of the aisle agree that the Defense of Marriage Act and similar state laws are now in peril. I believe that judges should strictly interpret the law and avoid the temptation to legislate from the bench or color their rulings with personal ideology.
I appreciate the opportunity to represent Texans in the United States Senate. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.
United States Senator
Several things caught my attention in the senator’s obviously form letter response. First of all, Sen. Cornyn accuses President Obama of refusing to defend DOMA based on “political motivations,” but he fails to acknowledge the politics likely affecting his opposition to repeal of DOMA. And then he says the president and his administration should uphold the law “regardless of personal ideology.” So which is it senator? Does the president oppose DOMA for political reasons or for personal ideology?
Sen. Cornyn also mentions that DOMA is “broadly supported by the American people.” Well, senator, take a look at recent polls and you see that perhaps that support is not as broad as you think. Polls are showing that support for marriage equality is growing all the time.
I found the “outright lawlessness by local officials in some states” to be an interesting phrase. It’s obviously a dig at those like former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (Current lieutenant governor of California) who believe in marriage equality and will act on their beliefs, and is intended, I would think, to stir up outrage against public officials who act illegally. And Cornyn included what I see as a not-so-veiled call for the reinstatement of anti-gay sodomy laws by citing Lawrence v. Texas, the case which resulted in the Supreme Court declaring such laws unconstitutional, as the root of the current court-based assault on the so-called sanctity of marriage.
I love these politicians who angrily demand that the courts “strictly interpret the law” — unless of course, such an interpretation goes against the interest of the politician.
But to me, the best part of the exchange between Ron Heath and Sen. Cornyn was Heath’s response: “Thank you for your honest answer. I will do everything in my power to make sure you are not re-elected.”
I don’t think Cornyn or his staffers will pay any more attention to Heath’s response than they did to his initial email. But I am sure it made Heath feel better just to write it down and email it to them. I know it made me feel a little better just to read it.