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02/28/2011

DOMA decision: It's not [insert President] won't defend [insert case] Mad Libs

by Jeremy Hooper

Here's a novel new meme building in socially conservative circles:

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV Friday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said President Barack Obama’s decision not to fully enforce the Defense of Marriage law eventually could lead to a constitutional crisis, as he has directly violated his constitutional duties by arbitrarily suspending a law.

Gingrich even suggested that, if a “President Sarah Palin” had taken a similar action, there would have been immediate calls for her impeachment

Gingrich: If Palin Took Obama Actions, There Would Be Calls for Impeachment [Newsmax via the National Organization for Marriage]

Uhm, okay. But here's the question: What "similar action" would a potential President Palin possibly take? Because what we are talking about here is the increased protection of one of the last shunnable minority populations. This is not some generic case. With dropped DOMA defense, we are talking about something specific: The possibility of increased nondiscrimination for LGB people. Sarah Palin has never given any indication that she would put that concept even close to a table, much less on it.

The far-right crowd is looking at the Obama administration's new DOMA position in the completely wrong way. The generalized socially conservative response acts like the decision was completely arbitrary, with the specified scenario painted as easily interchangeable with basically any other legal matter that might be presented to a President -- a view that is flawed, offensive, and intellectually dishonest! Flawed, because the truth of the matter is that Obama officials have poured over this case and its (lack of merits), determining the exact reasons why this particular piece of legislation, unlike countless others, is patently unconstitutional and therefore undeserving of DOJ defense. Offensive, because Gingrich and company's choice to strip out the actual human beings attached to the matter completely overlooks the very concrete reason why DOMA (enacted under Gingrich's time as Speaker) is, was, and forever will be wrongheaded and unfairly enacted. Intellectually dishonest, because rather than help the American public understand a decision that people like NOM and Gingrich have to understand on a factual level (even if they don't agree with it), the American social conservatives are yet again -- YET. AGAIN. -- waging a blind attack on "the left™," the Democratic President, and the "radical agenda®" that's supposedly attached to any of the brutally-shunned LGBT crowd's attempts to seize their equal rights and citizenship.

So if a theoretical President Palin did something truly similar to the Obama administration's DOMA decision? Well no, of course LGBT rights activists wouldn't call for impeachment (and not only because they'd be dead from shock). But a "similar action" would not mean a refusal to defend something like hate crimes legislation or Don't Ask Don't Tell's repeal (once it's completed), two choices that would be much more in line with Sarah Palin's stated positions. Because the choice to either defend or offend a certain minority population is not an equally-footed choice. Merit and principle aren't disposable considerations.

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