The political climate in 1996 was not as toxic in Washington, DC, as it is today, but in many respects it was just as dumb. Bill Clinton was in the White House closing in on the end of his first term and busy running for re-election. While Bill's reelection against the doddering Bob Dole was almost a foregone conclusion, the great Pander Bear was not taking anything for granted. He was intent on proving to every Joe Six-Pack in America that he could be just as lowdown and odious as the leaders of the Republican Party.
And the GOP had some dandy leaders. In 1996 Mark Foley was still serving in the House. Foley was the creepy congressman from Florida who spent his days, and some of his nights, making unwanted sexual advances toward a terrorized group of young, male House pages. That same year, Larry Craig, of the wide-stance Craig's, was still representing Idaho as a Republican in the United States Senate. He, too, had a thing for cute guys. Also in 1996, serial philanderer Newt Gingrich was the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives - dreaming of having breakfast at Tiffany's, no doubt.
Both the House and the Senate were in Republican control during 1996, creating a situation that was ripe for stupid legislation. One of the stupidest (and most hateful) bills passed that year was the scurrilous Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that recognized the inevitability of same-sex marriages in some states, and sought to minimize the impact of those marriages by ensuring that states did not have to honor marriages performed beyond their borders if those marriages could not have occurred legally within that particular state. DOMA (Section 3) also prevented the federal government from recognizing the validity of same-sex marriages.
President Clinton, right on cue, slithered forth and signed the right-wing screed. Bubba was not going to jeopardize his re-election by supporting something that wouldn't play well in church basements or American Legion halls.
President Obama campaigned on a pledge that he would bring about the repeal of DOMA. That has not happened, but earlier this year Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the President had decided that his administration and Justice Department would no longer defend Section 3 of DOMA in court because the President felt that it was blatantly unconstitutional. The administration said that if Congress had an issue with that (and did they ever!), then Congress could hire attorney's and defend Section 3 of DOMA in court.
And now Congress (or at least the Republican clowns in control of the House of Representatives) are headed into federal court to defend the honor of heterosexual marriages by castigating gays. They have hired (with our tax dollars) a legal beagle by the name of Paul Clement who will fight to maintain the dignity of marriage and the sanctity of Congress through a challenge to the case of Edie Windsor.
Edie Windsor was a victim of inheritance taxes - something that Republicans usually rail against. Edie was engaged to Thea Spyer for forty years, and in 2007 they went to Toronto, Canada, and were legally married. The couple returned to their home in Greenwich Village, New York, and lived contentedly for a couple of years until Thea died. Shortly thereafter, Edie, then in her eighties, received a bill from the federal government for $363,000 in inheritance taxes - something that would not have occurred had Edie's spouse been a male.
Edie Windsor took her complaint about having to pay the inheritance tax to a Federal District Court in southern New York. It was the egregiousness of this case that finally prompted the President to act when he pulled the Justice Department away from defending Section 3 of DOMA. And it was the egregiousness of the President's actions in the matter that forced the Republican Party to rush out and hire an attorney to go into court and defend this bigoted law.
This week Paul Clement filed two briefs in the Windsor case. According to an entry in today's DailyKos, he made the following five attacks on the concept of gay marriage and what the Republicans see as their mandate from God not to recognize it. (Warning: This stuff stinks!)
- Gays have not historically faced discrimination. (Tell that to Matthew Shephard!)
- Sexual orientation is a choice. (Maybe at the Bachmann Clinic, but certainly not in the real world!)
- Gays have plenty of political power. (Wrong again. If they did, this would not even be an issue!)
- Same-sex couples make bad parents. (Actually the literature suggests the opposite to be true.)
- The institution of marriage must be protected. (Could we have Newt give some testimony on that one - or perhaps Senator Vitter!)