Guest Blogger

DOMA, Obama, and Pennsylvania

Filed By Guest Blogger | March 31, 2008 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Barack Obama, DOMA, LGBT, Pride at Work

Editors' DSC02433.JPGnote: Jeremy Bishop is Executive Director of Pride At Work, the constituency group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers. Pride At Work does not endorse candidates on any level.

In my job as Executive Director of Pride At Work, the organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers, I see every day the disastrous effects that our communities' lack of access to the institution of marriage has on our families and our community.

Marriage isn't simply a religious and ceremonial proceeding, it is the institution that protects and provides stability for working families of all shapes and sizes.

Our communities' distinct lack of access to this institution adds stress to our already stressed-out families. Stressed out because of a job market in crisis due to the war economy, stressed out from the discrimination they face in their families and communities, and stressed out knowing that the simple act of putting their partners' photo on their desk at work could lead to their firing.

One of the biggest challenges facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender working people in gaining unfettered access to marriage and the benefits that come with it is the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Passed when I was still in high school, DOMA was a reaction to Republican baiting attacks against the LGBT community and their attempts to enact a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Supported by President Clinton, the bill passed overwhelmingly, and our community has been profoundly damaged ever since.

Today, many companies hide behind federal laws, particularly ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which governs most pension and health plans, as a way to deny their LGBT employees the same benefits they give their heterosexual counterparts.

This is all completely legal, for one reason: DOMA.

DOMA prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages for any purpose, even if recognized by an individual state. In addition, DOMA explicitly states that individual states do not have to recognize same-sex marriages from other states or municipalities.

Until DOMA is repealed, LGBT working people will continue to face enormous roadblocks in bringing their relationships on par with their heterosexual counterparts.

As LGBT people face the decision on who to vote for in this Democratic presidential primary, there is only one candidate that supports the full repeal of DOMA, and that is Senator Barack Obama.

Senator Hillary Clinton supports a partial repeal but would leave the language that other states do not have to recognize marriages performed in other states.

The practical application of this partial repeal would mean that for people who got married in Massachusetts, but now reside in Pennsylvania, their marriages would not be worth the paper they were written on.

The only way for our community to see full parity under the law is to repeal this unjust and un-American law.

The Clintons, both Bill and Hillary, moved the conversation about LGBT equality forward. They pushed for the repeal of the military's ban on LGBT soldiers, and they fought for federal job protections on the basis of sexual orientation.

They got us this far. But its time for someone who has first-hand experience about the impact of unjust marriage laws to take us to the promised land. That someone is Senator Barack Obama.

The product of an interracial marriage, Senator Obama sees the unseemly parallels between the fight to stop miscegenation and the reactionary battle to stop LGBT people from getting married.

Outspoken about his desire to repeal DOMA since 2004, Senator Obama called DOMA "an abhorrent law perpetuating division and affirming a wedge issue," according to a 2004 statement in Chicago's LGBT newspaper, The Windy City Times.

When Pennsylvania LGBT residents go to the polls on April 22nd, LGBT working families would do well to look at where the candidates stand on DOMA closely and decide who has the background, principle, and dedication to fight for what is right, not what is politically expedient.

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Thanks for a great guest post. I haven't really connected the fight for marriage equality to labor rights before, so this is definitely a new perspective for me.

One question, though. You say at the beginning that your organization doesn't endorse candidates, and yet you support Obama in this post. So am I to assume you are speaking for yourself?

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | March 31, 2008 7:59 PM

The differences between Clinton and Obama on DOMA is something that we as a community don't talk enough about. Clinton tries to justify her refusal to support full repeal of DOMA by claiming that she is being "pragmatic." Pragmatic, of course, being political code for "I'm not willing to spend political capital on you."

Serena - all of our contributors and guest posters blog for themselves unless specifically noted. We provide background info on them just as a reference.