Doma Debate

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DOMA: Support or Repeal?
BCOM 275

DOMA: Repeal or Support?
Abstract
This debate argues whether the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) should be supported or repealed on the basis of its definition of marriage, its constitutionality, and its impacts on non-heterosexual families. This debate argues that the Defense of Marriage Act should be repealed because its definition of marriage is heavily based on values of tradition in this country and because the definition violates the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

DOMA: Support or Repeal?

The Argument in support of DOMA

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is a federal law that was first introduced by Republican Bob Barr from Georgia in May of 1996. The bill passed in the house by a vote of 342-67 and in the Senate by a vote of 85-14. It was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996. DOMA gives states the right not to recognize same-sex marriage that another state has already recognized. Secondly, the law provides a federal definition of marriage. DOMA defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

In this paper, we are going to outline the two major provisions of DOMA. We will explore the federal definition of marriage and whether this is justified. We will further discuss the rights granted to the states and their ability to decline same sex marriage from other states. We will discuss both pros and cons of each part of DOMA, and then provide our teams determination on which is the more persuasive argument.

First let’s explore the DOMA mandated federal definition of Marriage. The language, taken directly from the law itself, is defined as follows: "In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife." By this definition, it is very clear cut that DOMA defines marriage as a traditional man and woman union. Since 1998, following in the footsteps of DOMA, 30 states have had their voters approve constitutional amendments to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Although not overwhelming, it is a majority and represents 60% of our states that have taken steps to protect the traditional definition of marriage.

The question next becomes a matter of whether this definition, based in tradition is justified? The traditional argument is based in the belief that marriage, rooted in tradition has always been between a man and a woman, and that this is also the best environment to raise children. The belief that marriage should be defined traditionally is not about taking away rights from anyone, it is just about not redefining the word marriage. Many supporters of a marriage definition argue that they don’t have any issues with gay couples; they just want the definition of marriage to be traditional. They are not proponents of banning anyone’s rights. The definition of marriage, is only part of DOMA’s mandate, the second part is the power granted to the states. The second part of DOMA that we will discuss is the rights granted to the state. It is defined as: "No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship." This very simply means that if you are a same sex couple and were married in a particular state that recognizes same sex marriage, then other states are not required to recognize that marriage. It serves to protect the...
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