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Conservative Media Cheer "You're Not Married Anymore" Legislation

February 14, 2014 3:11 pm ET by Luke Brinker

Conservative media outlets are lauding a legislative effort to enact what experts are calling an attempt to reincarnate the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the core provision of which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down last summer.

On February 12, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Senate version of the State Marriage Defense Act, a bill introduced in the House by Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX) in January. The bill would require the federal government to yield to state definitions of marriage, meaning that same-sex spouses would lose the federal benefits and protections of marriage if they moved to states that prohibit same-sex marriage. Accordingly, ThinkProgress has dubbed the bill the "'You're Not Married Anymore' Bill."

The bill - which stands an infinitesimal chance of passage in the Democratic-controlled Senate - would push back on the Supreme Court's June 2013 ruling against Section 3 of DOMA, which barred the federal government from recognizing validly performed same-sex marriages. Section 2 of DOMA, which wasn't considered in the Supreme Court case, allows states to define marriage, but there's a strong argument - increasingly supported by the courts - that the logical end-point of the Supreme Court's ruling is the demise of state-sanctioned discrimination against same-sex couples.

Since the Court issued its ruling, five federal courts have overturned state marriage equality bans, citing Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion that DOMA served no legitimate purpose. The most recent such ruling came on February 13 when U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen struck down Virginia's marriage equality ban.

Right-wing media, however, won't let DOMA die without waging a fight for anti-gay discrimination. championed Cruz and Lee's bill as a defense of state's rights, reprising the argument advanced by anti-civil rights figures who supported placing racial minorities' constitutional rights at the whim of state authorities. The website's William Bigelow asserted that the bill "protects the states from having the federal government encroach"  on their ability to deny equal rights to same-sex couples.

Following the same narrative, The Daily Caller touted the bill as an effort "to prevent the federal government from imposing conflicting definitions of marriage on the states," promoting Cruz's claim that President Obama "should not be trying to force gay marriage on all 50 states." PJ Media also acted as stenographer for the bill's sponsors, extensively quoting the bill in addition to Cruz and lee. The bill, PJ Media's headline read, tells the federal government to "mind states' rights on same-sex marriage."

Newsmax proved just as eager to frame the extension of equal marriage rights as an assault on freedom, characterizing the bill as legislation "to keep states from being forced to recognize" same-sex marriages. The website quoted the Heritage Foundation's in-house pro-discrimination champion Ryan T. Anderson praising the bill as a noble bid to preserve "the truth about marriage." Newsmax didn't see fit to solicit the opinion of a couple whose marriage would be effectively invalidated by the bill.

After Weber introduced the House version of the bill in January, the notoriously homophobic Washington Times opinion section provided a forum for hate group member Cathy Cleaver Ruse of the Family Research Council to urge the bill's passage. Ruse, a purported expert on the U.S. Constitution, didn't seem all that keen on the core constitutional principle that the popularity or unpopularity of minority rights is irrelevant and that such rights should not be endangered by the tyranny of the majority. Instead, Ruse called on Congress to protect the ability of states and their voters to restrict marriage to its "historical understanding" (an understanding that isn't as deeply rooted as Ruse might think).

This legislative effort to pass a watered-down form of DOMA comes after months of pressure from conservative media figures, who lashed out at the Supreme Court after it overturned Section 3 of the law, asserting that the Court had "overrule[d] God" and hastened the arrival of the day when churches would be forced to perform same-sex weddings. But even as conservative media denounce marriage equality as an alleged affront to states' rights and religious liberty, the right seems entirely uninterested in the impact bills like the State Marriage Defense Act would have on the rights and well-being of couples whose marriages would be jeopardized as they moved from state to state.


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