29 March 2013


Back in the dark ages (the Kennedy administration) I was required by State law to pass to State-mandated examinations in order to graduate from high school. One was an hour-long exam on the United States constitution and the other was on the Illinois constitution. We took the exams as part of our required civics course. The idea was to give us a basic understanding of our rights and responsibilities as citizens. We learned the principles of jus soli and jus sanguinis, which seem to me to put the birthers weird complaints in the trash can. We learned about "the Great Compromise," checks and balances, and how a bill becomes a law.

 Lately, I have come to doubt whether our politicians have ever taken such a simple course. In light of the arguments before the Supreme Court regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, the inane comments of such folks as Nancy Pelosi, Bill Clinton, and President Obama are startling in the deception they are attempting to foist on the American people.

 A little background is required. Back during the Clinton presidency, a bill was introduced in Congress. It provided that for the purposes of defining federal rights and privileges of citizens with respect to, e.g., taxation and benefits which were either granted solely to married people or which were different for married and unmarried people, marriage was defined as being between "one man and one woman." The bill was passed by a majority of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Assuming, as I do, that the members of Congress takes their oaths of office seriously, I presume that after debate, a majority of each house thought that the bill was constitutional. It was then forwarded to the President. President Clinton had two constitutional options: sign or veto. If he thought the bill was unconstitutional, he had a duty to veto the bill and return it to Congress, noting his objection. If he thought it was constitutional (as he did, according to statements he made as late as this week), he could sign the bill into law. He signed. 

One of the duties of the President as Chief Executive is to enforce or cause to be enforced the laws of the United States. Nowhere in the Constitution is he permitted, once a bill is signed into law, to refuse to enforce it. That defeats the purpose of checks and balances. (I will leave aside the issue of "signing statements" for another day.) If he, during his presidency, or a future President, comes to the conclusion that a law is unconstitutional, he may ask Congress to amend or repeal the law, but he cannot do so unilaterally. Unless you are Barack Obama.

DOMA is currently an in-force law of the United States. It has not been repealed. Neither President Obama nor any other serving President has ever asked Congress to repeal that law. Instead, he unilaterally decided that he would order his Attorney General to refuse to defend a duly enacted federal law in the Courts of the United States as it was his duty to do.

Bill Clinton says he now thinks the bill was unconstitutional, but who cares? He is not the President, and former Presidents do not get a vote. (President Truman thought former Presidents ought to have the privilege of the floor in the Senate--but not the vote. I tend to agree. I might go so far as to allow them, instead, the right to act as at-large members of the House of Representatives, i.e., giving them both voice and vote in the "peoples' house.")

Nancy Pelosi, in an another inane attempt to appear to be relevant, says that because the Senate and the President think the law is unconstitutional, that should carry some weight with the Court. "I'll bet she wouldn't have taken the position that the House is irrelevant when she was Speaker! So, I suggest that these people need to go back to high school. It surely didn't take the first time.

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