Equality Matters

Half Of The Tea Party Congress Supports Federal Intrusion Into State Marriage Laws

March 17, 2011 10:28 am ET - by Carlos Maza

Michelle Bachmann

Exactly half of the House Tea Party Caucus, which was formed in order to promote "limited government" and "fiscal responsibility," has signed on to a bill demanding that the Obama administration spend thousands of taxpayer dollars defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a law that massively infringes on states' rights.

The bill, H. Con. Res. 25:

(1) condemns the Obama administration's direction that the Department of Justice should discontinue defending the Defense of Marriage Act; and

(2) demands that the Department of Justice continue to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in all instances.

Of the 52 members of the House Tea Party Caucus, 26 have already signed on as co-sponsors to the bill, including Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann.

While traditional Republicans might be expected to support the bill, such a powerful endorsement from the Tea Party Caucus is puzzling because it contradicts two of the Tea Party's core principles: Limited government and focus on fiscal responsibility.

The Defense of Marriage Act is a classic example of federal intrusion into states' rights. DOMA explicitly prohibits the federal government from adhering to state definitions of marriage in instances where the state chooses to sanction the marriages of same-sex couples. In a February 24 article in The New Yorker, Margaret Talbot explained how DOMA delegitimizes state authority to define marriage:

...states have always had the right to determine marriage eligibility; the rules varied a great deal from state to state, and the federal government had embraced this variation. If a state law changed, federal law was supposed to recognize it. DOMA... was therefore a radical departure, marking "the first time that the federal government has ever attempted to mandate a uniform federal definition of marriage—or any other core concept of domestic relations, for that matter." If you wanted to talk status quo, well, the status quo was that the federal government was supposed to respect state laws on marriage.

That sentiment was reaffirmed in Massachusetts v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a 2010 federal district court case which found that DOMA directly violated the Tenth Amendment by refusing to recognize the states' right to define marriage for themselves.

That decision echoed a core tenet of the Tea Party: "That the authority of the states should trump Washington in most matters not explicitly assigned by the Constitution to the federal government." In fact, several state and local Tea Party groups have explicitly expressed their desire to see DOMA struck down, meaning the groups that drove the Tea Party movement are at odds with the 26 Tea Party Caucus members who signed on to the bill urging President Obama to continue defending DOMA whatever the cost.

The Tea Party Caucus's strong endorsement of H. Con. Res. 25 also contradicts the movement's broader decision to avoid getting bogged down in controversial social issues and instead focus on controlling government spending. Just one year ago, the Tea Party was working to brand itself as a movement focused almost exclusively on economic issues. When Republicans gained control of the House last November, Tea Party supporters urged them to call a "truce" on social issues and avoid running down "any social issue rabbit holes in order appease the special interests."

Now, the Caucus is demanding that the Obama administration pour thousands of federal tax dollars into defending a law that prevents federal recognition of legal same-sex marriages performed in the states. 

That half of the Tea Party Caucus is now promoting a federal intrusion on state's rights poses a serious question about the nature of the Tea Party's presence in Congress: Is the caucus abandoning the voters who put them in power in order to pander to traditional social conservatives?

Here's a list of the 52 members of the House Tea Party Caucus with the names of those co-sponsoring the bill in bold:

Robert Aderholt (AL-4)
Todd Akin (MO-2)
Rodney Alexander (LA-5)
Michele Bachmann (MN-6)
Joe Barton (TX-6)
Roscoe Bartlett (MD-6)
Gus Bilirakis (FL-9)
Rob Bishop (UT-1)
Michael Burgess (TX-26)
Paul Broun (GA-10)
Dan Burton (IN-5)
John Carter (TX-31)
Howard Coble (NC-6)
Mike Coffman (CO-6)
Ander Crenshaw (FL-4)
John Culberson (TX-7)
John Fleming (LA-4)
Trent Franks (AZ-2)
Phil Gingrey (GA-11)
Louie Gohmert (TX-1)
Tom Graves (GA-9)
Ralph Hall (TX-4)
Gregg Harper (MS-3)
Wally Herger (CA-2)
Pete Hoekstra (MI-2)
Lynn Jenkins (KS-2)
Steve King (IA-5)
Doug Lamborn (CO-5)
Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-9)
Cynthia Lummis (WY)
Kenny Marchant (TX-24)
Tom McClintock (CA-4)
Gary Miller (CA-42)
Jerry Moran (KS-1)
Sue Myrick (NC-9)
Randy Neugebauer (TX-19)
Mike Pence (IN-6)
Ted Poe (TX-2)
Tom Price (GA-6)
Denny Rehberg (MT)
Phil Roe (TN-1)
Ed Royce (CA-40)
Steve Scalise (LA-1)
Pete Sessions (TX-32)
John Shadegg (AZ-3)
Adrian Smith (NE-3)
Lamar Smith (TX-21) 
Cliff Stearns (FL-6)
Todd Tiahrt (KS-4) 
Zach Wamp (TN-3)
Lynn Westmoreland (GA-3)
Joe Wilson (SC-2)

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