Home
In this issue
April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review May 13, 2010 / 29 Iyar 5770

Who decides what ‘marriage’ means?

By Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | When congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, same-sex marriage did not exist in the United States. Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's 4-3 decision finding a right to same-sex marriage in the state constitution, was still seven years in the future.

But the crusade to fundamentally redefine marriage was already in progress, and Washington understood that once gay marriage was legalized anywhere, the crusaders would go to court to demand that it be recognized everywhere. So Congress enacted the Defense of Marriage Act to make two things clear: First, that no state could be forced to deem a same-sex couple "married" merely because another state did so. And second, that as far as the federal government and federal law were concerned, "marriage" would continue to mean what it had always meant: the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife.

DOMA was not controversial. It was passed by robust bipartisan majorities -- 85 senators and 342 representatives -- and readily signed by President Bill Clinton. Moreover, it was replicated at the state level almost everywhere: 45 states define marriage as the union of male and female, 30 of them in their constitutions.

But five states and the District of Columbia do allow same-sex couples to marry, and the crusaders' strategy to redefine marriage by judicial fiat proceeds. Which is why Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the legal organization that successfully litigated Goodridge, was in federal court last week, urging a judge to rule that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional on the grounds that it discriminates against gay and lesbian couples.

Attorney Mary Bonauto, lead counsel for the gay and lesbian group, told US District Judge Joseph Tauro in Boston that by restricting the federal definition of "marriage" to opposite-sex couples, DOMA unfairly relegates married same-sex partners to second-class status. Not only that, she claimed, it negates "the longstanding deference of federal to state law in determining the marital status" of individuals claiming federal benefits.

But neither objection holds water.

The 1996 law does not "single out" same-sex marriages for invidious purposes, as GLAD argues in its brief, nor does it "deny their existence" in order to strip same-sex partners of rights. DOMA simply does what countless other federal laws do: It defines basic legislative terms. Considering how frequently the words "marriage" and "spouse" are used in federal statutes, rulings, and regulations, it is nonsensical to claim that Congress has no right to clarify their meaning -- as nonsensical as claiming that Congress is barred from defining "wetland" or "endangered species" or "disability."

To be sure, an individual state is free to adopt an irregular definition of marriage -- or anything else -- for purposes of state law. But it doesn't have a constitutional right to impose that definition on the rest of the nation. Massachusetts could decide, if it wished, to recognize martial-arts studios as institutions of higher education, and to make them eligible for state-subsidized education loans. Plainly, that anomalous definition of "higher education" would not be binding on the federal student loan program. By the same token, Massachusetts can decide (or be required by its supreme court) to treat same-sex partners as married spouses. But it can hardly insist that its definition of "married spouses" trumps that of the federal government and 45 other states.

Bonauto argued that until DOMA came along, the federal government had always allowed the states to decide who was legally married. "The only thing that changed here," she told Tauro, "was who was going to marry."

But the overriding national interest in the fundamental meaning of marriage is a precedent Congress established long before 1996.

In the second half of the 19th century, Congress acted time and again to shut down polygamy, which the Mormon Church at the time encouraged. Beginning with the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act, signed by President Lincoln in 1862, Congress moved aggressively to establish monogamy as the only lawful form of wedlock in the United States. Eventually Congress would go so far as to require voters, jurors, and public officials in Utah to take an anti-polygamy oath, and it would make a permanent ban on polygamy a condition of Utah statehood.

The Defense of Marriage Act understandably sticks in the craw of those who want marriage to mean something the vast majority of Americans have never accepted. But is the longstanding national definition unconstitutional merely because some people reject it? The federal courts have never said so before; there is no good reason for them to say so now.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

Jeff Jacoby Archives

© 2010, Boston Globe

Columnists

Toons

Lifestyles