News,  Politics

Obama Administration Will Not Defend Federal Marriage Law

In 1996, Congress passed the “Defense of Marriage Act.” This law defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The law also says that no state, territory, or possession of the United States is required to treat as a marriage a same-sex relationship considered a marriage in another state. The “Defense of Marriage Act” is an act of Congress, and it is the law of the land.

Today, President Obama’s Justice Department announced that it would no longer defend this law in court. Here’s how The Washington Post describes President Obama’s shifting position on marriage:

“President Barack Obama has concluded that the administration cannot defend the federal law that defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. He noted that the congressional debate during passage of the Defense of Marriage Act ‘contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships – precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the (Constitution’s)Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against.'”

The President has also said that he is “grappling” with the question and that his own position on marriage is “constantly evolving.”

None of this is at all surprising, though it is disappointing. Massive social change is afoot, and it will have enormous implications for individuals and organizations that do not recognize same-sex unions as “marriage.” The ground was already moving beneath our feet, and today’s decision is shifting it even more.


  • Chris

    The title of this blog post is misleading. Obama and Holder have decided to no longer defend the constitutionality of DOMA. The law will still be enforced, that is until the courts rule definitively on the subject.

    If our President was openly no longer upholding federal law I would like to hope our country would have the sense to impeach him!

  • Denny Burk

    Thanks, Chris. I noted that when I titled the post. My view is that the Justice Department’s responsibility to defend the law is a part of enforcement. But i think you are correct nevertheless. So I edited the title and post. Thanks.

  • Paul

    @Charles: and yes, the next time that Obama hears about a Donkey in a bathtub in New Jersey or someone ugly being out after dark in Chicago, I’ll expect him to enforce those silly laws (that are still on the books) to their fullest extent.

    Politicians, from the president down to mayors and village boards choose which laws they’re going to place a priority on. This is no different. Deal with it.

  • Joe Blackmon

    This is really no surprise. He’s the most extremely left-wing president we’ve ever had. He makes Clinton look like a conservative.

    The really sad part is how many Christians will applaud this move and work to see this law taken off the books. Oops, I had a typo there–instead of Christians that should read christians.

  • Charles Bragg

    Paul, the premise of your point is irrelevant here. We are discussing. A federal law. One that is far from silly as I’m sure you must realize. The concern here is more about the Obama administration ignoring the majority will of the American people. Furthermore, the Executive branch of government is not the branch that should be addressing the issue. The Supreme court is set up to handle things of this nature. The Judicial branch is where this belongs. I, for one, am tired of seeing elected officials use their position to advocate for their personal causes. They overstep their authority and make a mockery of the system
    That’s why I speak out in public settings. That’s how I “deal wirh it”. What happens if the next administration decides to ignore laws of which you are in favor. This is a dangerous proposition Paul.

  • Paul

    more extremely to the left than Republicans Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln (who might have been gay)? More than Thomas Jefferson?

    Lose the rhetoric and talk about the facts.

    I, as a Christian, would prefer the government to worry about bigger fish than who can get married and who can’t. The government has little business butting into the personal lives of its constituents.

  • Christiane

    Hi JOE,

    I can tell you what some Protestant evangelical people in our neighborhood commented:
    that they feel the publicity surrounding the Christian ‘right’ has portrayed them as ‘bullies’ and hate-mongers towards gay people;
    and that this adverse publicity has impacted how many see evangelical people ‘in general’ on this issue.

    My neighbors feel that their own faith has been unfortunately portrayed poorly AND unfairly,
    also by the more ‘strident’ culture warriors on the ‘religious right’.

    They feel betrayed by the popular media AND by the religious right’s more politically provocative leaders. My neighbors feel that their own voice is not heard, amidst all of the divisive antagonism out there: that they are NOT the ‘bullies’ that some people might assume that they might be, but are loyal to their own understanding of Scripture.

    Sooo . . . my question would be:
    how can the Christian community take a stand for marriage as it defines it, with enough honesty, integrity and consistent sincerity, in a way that DEFEATS the extreme antics of those who feed into the ‘bully’ impression on both sides of the issue?

    I think it is possible.

  • Paul

    “The concern here is more about the Obama administration ignoring the majority will of the American people.”

    This is a nation of laws, not a nation of men. The majority of Americans in 1860 probably would have been okay with keeping slavery in place. I am almost certain that a majority of Americans in 1964 would have been okay with the Jim Crow laws staying in place. Heck, I’m pretty sure that given the opportunity today, that roughly half the nation would be in favor of going BACK to plenty of those laws.

    “I, for one, am tired of seeing elected officials use their position to advocate for their personal causes. They overstep their authority and make a mockery of the system.”

    In light of this, I am certain that I’ll see you in Madison soon to join the protesters? Anything short of that would be entirely hypocritical.

  • Charles Bragg

    I think you hit the nail on the head Christine”. Rather than arguments about what’s “wrong ” with homesexual marriage we should engage in respectful intelligent conversations about theadvantages of living life the way it was designed by God
    We should be examples of love to light the path in an ever darkening culture. We strive to be the kind of examples that Christ has called us to be and we hold ourselves to a higher standard. Thank you for that insight.

    Paul, you should understand that this law is on the books already. I agree with you….the Obama administration has bigger fish to fry. Let this issue fall to the courts where it belongs. All we expect is that the office of the president preserve that which has already been established.

  • Charles Bragg

    Paul, the Government was never intended to rule ovee the people it was set in place to reflect the will of the people. Right or wrong the power belongs to the people. Check out the Constitution. Americans have lost sight of this monumental principal that made this country the greatest Nation on earth.

  • Christiane

    It is getting VERY clear now to see the politics that line up for working-class people,
    and the politics that line up for corporate benefit.

    I’m glad about this.

    The old lines were ‘pro-life/pro-choice’, but thanks to some recently elected leaders ‘opening up’ about their agendas, we are able now to see what WAS masked by politicians underneath the ‘abortion issue’.

    Someone over-played their hand. And I, for one, am glad that the cat is out of the bag.

  • Paul

    Yes, Charles, please actually READ the constitution. This IS a nation of laws.

    According to you, though, it would only be a nation of laws when you think it should be.

  • Christiane

    Paul, if a ‘law’ is PERCEIVED (by the majority of Americans) AS not being constitutional because it is PERCEIVED AS impinging on the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of our citizens,
    then that ‘law’ needs to be tested in the courts for clarification.

  • Charles Bragg

    I appreciate your views on this issue sir. I thibk I have been misunderstood though. This law is already on the books. The Obama administration is refusing to defend it. That’s the issue I would wish to address. The actual law in question is irrelevant. Qhat if, hypothetically, the next Republican administration decided that abortion was morally wrong and decided not to defend the rulling in Roe vs Wade? Surely we can foresee the ramifications that follow.

    I would like to thank you Mr. Burk for hosting this forum on such an important issue. I really enjoy sharing ideas with respectful and articulate people such as yourself paul and I have enjoyed your insights as well Christiane.

  • rob

    thats not how its supposed to work at least. obama should be impeached for not protecting the constitution. its not his job to decide whats constitutional and whats not, its the peoples and supreme courts. just another reason why he is one of our worst presidents. i dare you to call me out on that.

  • Paul

    Chris – heck of a straw man you built there.

    So, what you’re saying is that there’s no difference between God and government?

    There is a huge difference, and if you can’t see that, then we have some major issues to overcome before we can even talk.

  • Joe Blackmon


    Since telling someone that the Bible calls all homosexual activity sinful all the time but that if someone trusts Christ alone to save them and repents of their sins He will forgive their sins falls under your (and I’m sure your friend’s) definition of “bullying” and “hate-mongering”, you’re going to have a hard time convincing me that what you think matters.

    Homosexuals do not have a “right” to marry since the Bible calls homosexuality a sin. Therefore, the government can’t give them that “right” because it doesn’t exist.

    how can the Christian community take a stand for marriage as it defines it, with enough honesty, integrity and consistent sincerity,

    By consistantly preaching the gospel–That no human being can be good enough for God. We’re all sinners from birth and by choice. Our sins deserve God’s wrath and eternal punishment in hell. Christ came to earth, lived a perfect life completely free from sin, and died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin. Anyone who comes to Christ and places their faith in Him to save them and repents of their sins will be saved. Anyone who does not place their faith in Christ (a muslim, a hindu for example) and anyone who does not repent of their sins (a opely practicing homosexual, for instance) will suffer eternal punishment for their sins in hell.

  • Chris

    I don’t think it’s a straw man at all! You said that government should butt out of the marriage business! I was just wondering if you believed God should butt out of the marriage business. It’s relevant because at least right now marriage is still one man and one woman and God and the government have the same position.


  • Derek

    Paul has some odd views about how Christians should interact with government. He thinks that an atheist or secular person should feel free to advocate their moral framework in the civic arena – but Christians really have no right to advocate or defend theirs. It is inconsistent, but I guess it makes sense to him because he gets very argumentative when you try to show him how it doesn’t add up.

  • Joe Blackmon


    Great point. It’s like that ridiculous bumper sticker “Coexist” with all the different religion symbols on it. What some people claim it means is “All religions should be able to get along.” What they really mean is “Everyone has a right to express their faith–except for Christians. Christians, please shut your pie holes.”

  • Paul

    Derek –

    you’re delusional. Tell me what I think right after you’ve asked me about it.

    Heck, if you don’t want to do it here, click on my name and send me an email. I’ll be glad to discuss my beliefs ad nauseum. But don’t go putting words into my mouth. That’s entirely immature.

  • Charlton Connett


    While I agree with you that there is a distinct difference between what God says is okay and what government should actually get involved in, I don’t think marriage is the place to make that distinction. Marriage and family have been the building blocks of civilization since God created man. Marriage predates government on earth, and every government since the beginning of time has been involved in marriage in one way or another. Government involvement in marriage occurs for very good reason: because there are a lot of benefits, and obligations, that come with marriage (traditionally that includes, but is not limited to, the generation, raising, and education of children). Unless you want to do away with all these benefits and obligations, or unless you think all of them should be transferable to any union of two individuals (though the question would arise as to why we should limit marriage to two individuals) then government should necessarily be involved in the regulation of marriages. Because of the sad state of marriage in America today, I would argue the government should do more to strengthen marriage, because the dissolution of marriage and the breakdown of family units will lead to catastrophic consequences. (For what it is worth, my idea of government strengthening marriage involves mostly the government getting out of the way, not passing more laws, but this particular law is one that should be recognized and defended, for the sake of society as a whole.)

    An interesting note is that many of the puritans who first settled the colonies of the United States actually felt that marriage was almost purely a governmental affair, and not so much a religious one. They felt so strongly about this that in some colonies the official churches would not perform marriages. Many people today make the argument that “marriage” is a church matter, and that the concept of “civil unions” should be the only thing that concerns states. In light of historical arguments to the contrary of what many people say today, I think it is worth rethinking weather government should be involved in strengthening and supporting traditional marriage, and to what extent.

  • Derek

    If anyone thinks I have mischaracterized your views, Paul, I would simply say go to Denny’s blog entry titled “Apple Pulls Manhattan Declaration App”. You are sensitive to how a secular person defines marriage, and are willing to change the historical understanding, legal framework and definition of marriage, but insensitive to how a Christian (or religious person, for that matter) would define marriage. You aren’t concerned much if any that such a redefinition would restrict religious liberty, e.g. as in terms of how a religious school or organization may conduct hiring practices. You have demonstrated a preference for secular views in the secular square and you do seem to feel that Christians have imposed their views unfairly on their fellow citizens.

  • Derek

    Regarding divorce: whenever this topic comes up, the divorce rate of heterosexuals and of Christians in particular comes up. There has been some interesting news on that subject lately, with a couple of recent studies showing that regular church attenders actually do have a lower divorce rate than the rest of the population. Many of the past studies on this included occasional churchgoers and nominally religious people, which made it appear that Christians had the same rate of divorce as the general population.

    You can find more information about this by looking up “Bradley Wright divorce study” on Google. I hope Denny does a blog entry about this some time. It puts the kabosh on a worn out myth.

  • Chris

    Thanks Derek for filling me in. Not sure why non-Christians would come to this blog and engage unless they either are truly searching (and if this is Paul’s case then I am glad he is here)or they are looking to harass and belittle others beliefs in an attempt to justify their own actions or to try and discourage those of faith.

    So Paul why are you here?

  • Derek

    I do believe Paul is a Christian, fwiw. I think he has made that clear and I certainly take that at face value. He seems to feel however that Christians have marginalized and/or crushed the views of non-Christians in the political arena and as a result, we should embrace liberal initiatives and reforms.

  • Joe Blackmon

    Christians have marginalized and/or crushed the views of non-Christians in the political arena

    I’m sorry. I missed the part where that would be a bad thing. πŸ™‚

    BTW, we must not have done a very good job of marginalizing and crushing their views. We’re still having to listen to their blathering. :-p

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