Feds Shouldn’t Force States to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage, Says Barney Frank
August 14, 2008 - 6:01 PMRep. Barney Frank says that he would like to see the Defense of Marriage Act repealed but does not believe that states that do not allow same-sex marriage should be forced to legally recognize those now performed in California and Massachusetts.
Frank, the most prominent openly homosexual member of Congress, replied “No” when CNSNews.com asked him during a teleconference if other states should be required to recognize same-sex marriages contracted in his home state of Massachusetts.
“It’s always been the case that states have had the right to make their own decision on whether or not to allow gay marriage,” Frank said. “No supreme or federal court ever said they [states] had to recognize each other’s marriages. Well before DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), the principle was settled that states make their own choices.”
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for purposes of all federal laws. It also prohibits states from being forced under the U.S. Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause to recognize homosexual marriages contracted in other states.
The congressman told CNSNews.com that, though he would like to see DOMA repealed, he does not believe parts of the bill are valid because, he argues, the “Full Faith and Credit Clause” was never meant to be defined by Congress.
“Whether or not DOMA is repealed has no affect on [forcing states to recognize same-sex unions contracted in other states],” Frank said.
“The ‘Full Faith and Credit Clause’ is interpreted by the Supreme Court, not by Congress. Frankly, the section of the Defense of Marriage that purports to say what the ‘Full Faith and Credit’ means has no constitutional validity whatsoever, because the Supreme Court has never allowed Congress to make those decisions,” he added.
The language of clause itself, however, appears to envision a role for Congress. It says: "Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records, and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof."
In July 1996, Frank led House Democrats in opposition to the federal DOMA and voted against the bill along with 65 other House Democrats.
The Democratic Party’s 2008 platform draft, which will be submitted to delegates at the Democratic National Convention for final approval in late August, explicitly opposes DOMA.
“We will enact a comprehensive bipartisan employment non-discrimination act,” the draft says. “We oppose the Defense of Marriage Act and all attempts to use this issue to divide us.”
The platform reflects the desires of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to do away with DOMA.
Obama has not spoken to CNSNews.com on the issue, but the “pride” section of his campaign Web site reads: "Obama also believes we need to fully repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions.”
Pelosi (D-Calif.), meanwhile, told CNSNews.com on Aug. 1 that she would support Obama if he attempted to repeal DOMA as president.
Frank told CNSNews.com in an exclusive telephone interview Thursday afternoon that he doubts that, even if Obama is elected president, DOMA will be repealed in the next four years.
“I am skeptical that we would have the votes,” said Frank. “I think it is very unlikely that the whole thing will be repealed. I am not optimistic, though, I welcome the fact that he [Obama] is for repealing it.”