Debate on Repealing the Defense of Marriage Act
Yesterday on KQED Radio’s Forum, host Michael Krasny and guests debated the Respect for Marriage Act, a repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which legally defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, which has the effect of denying a range of benefits to same-sex married couples that are afforded to married people of the opposite sex.
Here’s a video replay of Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill, which is being sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein, here.
Discussing the issue on Forum yesterday were Bill May, chairman of Catholics for the Common Good and an opponent of the Respect for Marriage Act, Jerrold Nadler, U.S. congressman (D NY) and co-sponsor of the bill, and Kate Kendell, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and a bill proponent.
Listen to some of that show or read an edited transcript below:
Where marriage is concerned, and divorce and inheritance and adoptions, certainly those things have traditionally come under state law, so why keep a federal law like DOMA in place?
Bill May, Catholics for the Common Good:
To reduce marriage to just a package of benefits demonstrates how shallow the understanding of what marriage really is. Marriage is an institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from the union. It’s the only institution that does that.
The government is saying and in fact it’s a stated policy of the Obama administration that the government has no interest in uniting a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union.
What’s happening here is not creating a new entity called same-sex marriage but redefining the reality of marriage to simply a public recognition of a committed relationship between adults for their private interests, for benefits. And that’s just a response to a very very powerful public interest and ignores the common interest that every child has in the marriage of his or her mother and father.
Well if it’s just benefits, they also affect real people in a very profound way, I’m sure you would concede. You’ve got people who have been together for decades and suddenly they don’t have the benefits that are afforded to other couples for that period.
Well everyone has benefits that affect them in a personal way and some people qualify for benefits and other people don’t. This isn’t about benefits, it’s about the institution that unites a man and a woman with each other and any children born from their union. Do we stand with the powerful interests that want to redefine that to just the private interest for adults or to the common interest that every child has in that institution?
Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights and a proponent of the
There’s nothing about expanding equality and fairness and justice to include people who have been traditionally excluded that works a redefinition to the institution of marriage. It is about making this country more fair, more just, more egalitarian, affording to same-sex relationships the same dignity, the same security, that we do every other married couple. It’s an expansion of a greater ideal that we include more people to be covered by the protections and the security and the dignity and the nomenclature and the common humanity that comes with couples who are married by affording that same recognition.
I would agree with Bill on one point: It is about much more than benefits. We’re talking about a system and an understanding and an institution that everybody has deep feelings for and experience with. Marriage, when people choose to make that decision, is not about benefits. It is about love and commitment and shared sacrifice.
And what I appreciate seeing in the whole discourse around marriage and the rights of same-sex couples, is that we are finally understanding – and the polls show this month after month, year after year – that we are three-dimensions as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, we’re not just in the streets marching, we’re not just on talk shows advocating for our rights. We have the same yearning for love and joy and commitment and dignity in our relationship as anyone else. And to have us alone to not have the rights that are accorded to couples who are married is unconscionable in a country that says our constitution protects everyone.
Michael Krasny, host
Bill May, as a good Catholic, what do you think when you hear this is about justice and love and things of that sort? It doesn’t sound like rhetoric, it sounds like authentic, sincere sentiments.
Well of course it is. Everyone is made for love. We crave it, we need it. Everybody can love. It’s not about that. While everybody is made for love, not everybody is made for marriage that unites a man and a woman and any children that are born from their union.
It’s not true that this isn’t redefining marriage. All Kate has to do is to go to Judge Walker’s decision that overturned Prop 8 in California that shows he created a whole new definition of marriage and treated it as a private interest for the benefits of adults in order to come to his conclusion.
That’s not what marriage is. Marriage unites a man and a woman and any children that are born from their union.