Opening Statement of Ranking Member Chuck Grassley
Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on “The Respect for Marriage Act”
Mr. Chairman, the bill before us today is entitled the Respect for Marriage Act. George Orwell would have marveled at that name. A real bill to restore marriage would restore marriage as it has been known: as between one man and one woman. That is the view of marriage that I support. This bill would undermine, not restore marriage, by repealing the Defense of Marriage Act.
The Defense of Marriage Act was enacted in 1996. The Senate vote was 85-14. Unlike a bill in which one member of a party supports a partisan bill of the other party, which sometimes passes for bipartisanship around here, this was truly a bipartisan bill. President Clinton signed it into law. President Obama ran for election on a platform of support for traditional marriage.
One of the witnesses before us today says that DOMA was passed for only one reason: “to express disapproval of gay and lesbian people.” I know this to be false. Senators at the time such as Biden, Harkin, Kohl, and you, Mr. Chairman, and Representatives at the time, such as Schumer and Durbin, did not support DOMA to express disapproval of gay and lesbian people. And neither did I.
Marriage is an institution that serves the same public purpose all over the world: to foster unions that can result in procreation. It creates incentives for husbands and wives to support each other and their children. It exists more to benefit children than adults.
Although many marriages do not involve children, societies all over the world recognize the numerous reasons to extend special recognition to traditional marriage.
I never thought I would have to defend traditional marriage. It has been the foundation of our society for 6000 years. Not only here, but around the world. It is what civilizations have been built on.
Support for traditional marriage cannot be viewed in a vacuum. Over the last 50 years, marriage has changed dramatically. Perhaps the divorce laws, inheritance laws, and criminal laws of that time needed reform.
Like many members of Congress, I believe in federalism. I do support the rights of the states to make changes in marriage if they so choose.
But I also believe that a state that changes its definition of marriage should not be able to impose that change on sister states or the federal government. Section 2 of DOMA adds a statutory enhancement to state authority under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution to maintain their own definitions of marriage.
In addition, same-sex couples are not the only couples who face the issues we will hear from today. Unmarried heterosexual couples, siblings, and friends who live together all can face the same problems, some of which can be addressed through other means than this particular legislation.
I’d like to note that one of our witnesses describes the serious threats that were made against ordinary citizens who exercised their First Amendment rights to petition the government for redress of grievances when California judges forced that state to adopt same-sex marriage.
The minority very much hoped to call a witness today at this hearing to testify in support of DOMA. I am sure she would have done an excellent job.
She declined, however, citing as one reason the threats and intimidation that have been leveled against not only her but her family as a result of her public support for DOMA. She will continue to write on this subject, but will no longer speak publicly about it. This chilling of First Amendment rights is unacceptable.
There are people of good faith on both sides of this question. They should seek to persuade each other through logic and factual evidence. They should not resort to threats of violence or seek to silence their opponents.
DOMA is a constitutional law. But it is subject to constitutional attack.
As one of today’s witnesses shows, the Department of Justice has not performed its constitutional duty to take care that the law be faithfully executed during the course of litigation involving DOMA.
The department recently argued that the courts should rely on unpassed bills in deciding on the legality of governmental action. This is a ridiculous argument, one which courts have never accepted.
The rule of law requires rulings based on actual laws, not on policy preferences. The Obama Administration lost on that argument in the Leal case, although, regrettably, four activist justices agreed with it.
Neither the administration nor any judge should rely on the unpassed bill S. 598 in arguing or deciding the constitutionality of DOMA. Nor should the Administration or any judge accept the argument the Justice Department made in Leal that there is any legal significance to the mere introduction of a bill even if it is strongly supported by the administration. Nor should the administration or any judge be of the erroneous opinion that this Congress will pass S. 598.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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