Arlen Specter On Marriage Equality

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Sep 23, 2009 at 00:00

Here is a recent letter from Arlen Specter's office to a constituent query on amending the Constitution to prohibit marriage equality. It shows Specter opposes marriage equality, favors the Defense of Marriage Act, and only thinks that an amendment banning marriage equality is currently unnecessary, but should be considered if more than a handful of states pass marriage equality:

Dear Mr. Hedo:

Thank you for contacting my office regarding a proposal to amend the Constitution for the purpose of defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. I appreciate hearing your comments on this important matter.

In 1996, the Congress passed and the President signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). I supported the passage of this legislation. This law has two important facets. First, the law defines marriage for the purpose of the Federal government as a union between one man and one woman. Second, it provides that no state or local jurisdiction may be forced to recognize a legal union created in another state or jurisdiction, if the definition of that union is contradictory to their own.

The legalization of same sex marriage in states such as Connecticut, Iowa, and Massachusetts has led many citizens to believe it is necessary to amend the United States Constitution in order to protect traditional marriage. Although I support traditional marriage as defined in DOMA, and although I appreciate the goal of the proposed amendment, I do not believe it is necessary to amend the Constitution at this time.

I believe this is an issue most appropriately addressed at the state level, and most states are working hard to protect marriage. Indeed, nearly every state has enacted statutory or constitutional protection for traditional marriage. Furthermore, DOMA ensures those states will not be forced to recognize unions created in the handful of states with legalized same-sex marriage. Therefore, I believe it is premature to amend our founding document at this time.

Thank you for contacting my office regarding proposals to amend the Constitution to protect traditional marriage. Rest assured I will keep your thoughts on this issue in mind if the Senate considers this issue or any related issue. Should you have any further questions, please contact my office or visit my website at

Arlen Specter

Now, I know that Arlen Specter favors DOMA and banning marriage equality at the state level now, but given the way this primary has gone I'm pretty sure that in a week or two he will be demanding that Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell immediately sign an executive order legalizing gay marriage.

In the meantime, Joe Sestak has a petition to Speaker Pelosi asking for a floor vote to repeal DOMA. On Monday, Congressman Sestak was one of the 91 co-sponsors of a bill by Representatives Nadler, Baldwin and Polis to repeal DOMA. Despite the high number of co-sponsors, it is far from guaranteed that this bill will receive a floor vote. It will take a campaign to change that.

Chris Bowers :: Arlen Specter On Marriage Equality

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OK, that's it. Joe Sestak, please! (4.00 / 3)
I was hoping that the primary challenge could at least push Arlen Specter to the left. I guess we've seen some success there, but obviously not enough. He's STILL defending DOMA?

Not even President Clinton likes it any more. Not even Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) likes it any more. Not even Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) likes it any more. Even my own Senator (Harry Reid) is distancing himself from that crap, and Arlen Specter is still promoting discrimination against LGBT families??!!

Not only do I want the primary any more. I actually want Joe Sestak to win, dammit! I'm sick and tired of seeing our families, our community, our very lives being used as punching bags by these craven politicians. Specter needs to go, simple as that.

Yes, Virginia, there are progressives in Nevada.

And don't forget ... (4.00 / 1)
Wellstone said DOMA was probably his biggest mistake he ever made in the Senate

[ Parent ]
Time for Arlen to retire from the Senate (4.00 / 1)
The way things are going I'll probably be only contributing to primary challenges to incumbent Dems in the 2010 election cycle. Sestak will be on my list for contributions.  

When was this letter written? (0.00 / 0)
Was it before his party switch?  Was it an automatic form letter response that may have never been changed?

Inquiring minds want to know!

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!

I received the same letter yesterday (0.00 / 0)
Though technically, I don't know when it was written.

The really annoying part is that I wrote him in favor of repealing DOMA. The response is written as if I wanted him to support a Constitutional amendment banning marriage equality. Form letter FAIL.

[ Parent ]
He was sending a different letter in 2006 (0.00 / 0)
Checked my old Gmail to see if I'd contacted him before on this issue, and the letter from Feb 2006 was significantly different:

Thank you for contacting my office regarding the proposed amendment to the United States Constitution to define marriage as only a union between a man and woman. I appreciate hearing from you on this matter.

          I appreciate the goal of this amendment. In 1996, I joined my colleagues in passing H.R. 3396, the Defense of Marriage Act. This act, signed into law by President Clinton, federally defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. The law also allows a state to refuse to honor a same-sex marriage performed in any other state.

          Although I supported a statutory solution, amending the Constitution is a more serious step, and one we should never take lightly. This is a very difficult issue that requires careful consideration and thought. Rest assured that I will keep your thoughts on this issue in mind should the Senate consider this or any other similar legislation. Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office or visit my website at .

Also, replying to myself FAIL.

[ Parent ]
marriage equality (0.00 / 0)
the best way to secure nationwide marriage equality is for states to stop recognising the marriages of those that don't.  that will shut them up quick.

That's unconstitutional under full faith and credit (0.00 / 0)
It would certainly set up an interesting court battle over DOMA, particularly the part of it that tells the Courts how to interpret full faith and credit, but so long as DOMA is law, gay marriages get an exemption from full faith and credit, which it is unconstitutional to ignore.

[ Parent ]
then DOMA is unconstitutional (0.00 / 0)
and that's the point.  

marriage is marriage.  If states decide what constitutes a marriage within their law, then they decide what constitutes marriage and it has to be recognised, regardless of what a piece of federal legislation says, or what other states' laws are.  

If they don't decide, then the proposal I made shouldn't be a problem, and marriages of all kinds from various states that don't support marriage equality can be disallowed by states that do.

Either way, we win :) the only question I have is when the appropriate time is to introduce such legislation - if it were proposed prematurely, then it would backfire, as you outline.

[ Parent ]
in order to achieve the result we want (marriage equality) (0.00 / 0)
is it wise (for vote-whipping reasons) to try to repeal something called 'the Defense of Marriage act'? can't we change its immoral definition of marriage and leave the name alone?

That's a point. Would look better to ammend that act,... (4.00 / 2)
..instead of scrapping it. Dems have to concider how this looks to the public. And who says a "Defense of Marriage" act can't include the defense of lgbt marriages, too? Except all rethuglicans, of course...

[ Parent ]
re: doma (0.00 / 0)
And who says a "Defense of Marriage" act can't include the defense of lgbt marriages, too?

yes! that's exactly what I was thinking

[ Parent ]

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