The American Family Association, which led an effort to boycott the conservative gathering CPAC this month over its inclusion of groups backing gay rights, is hoping the White House’s decision to back off its legal support for the Defense of Marriage Act will help bolster momentum for social issues in the GOP.
“I think it’s a clear sign that we simply cannot avoid engaging on the social issues,” Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for the group, told TPM. “Mitch Daniels has called for a truce on social issues and that would be fine if the homosexual lobby was willing to lay down arms, but they’re obviously not and this proves it. A truce is nothing more than a surrender.”
Fischer said he was not surprised by the president’s decision.
“Frankly I was surprised that President Obama pretended to be a defender of natural marriage as long as he did,” he said.
He said that the White House move should serve as “a wake-up call to all conservatives that fundamental American values regarding the family are under all-out assault by this administration. It ought to represent a clarion call to man the barricades before we lose what is left of the Judeo-Christian system of values in our public life.”
Update: Two more social conservative groups, the Family Research Council and National Organization for Marriage have put out statements on the White House decision.
WASHINGTON - The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) responded to President Obama calling upon the Department of Justice to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act:
“We have not yet begun to fight for marriage,” said Brian Brown, president of NOM.
“The Democrats are responding to their election loss with a series of extraordinary, extra-constitutional end runs around democracy, whether it’s fleeing the state in Wisconsin and Indiana to prevent a vote, or unilaterally declaring homosexuals a protected class under our Constitution, as President Obama just did,” said Brown. “We call on the House to intervene to protect DOMA, and to tell the Obama administration they have to respect the limits on their power. This fight is not over, it has only begun!”
DOMA defines marriage for federal purposes as one man and one woman, and clarifies that states do not have to recognize gay marriage performed in other states. It was passed in 1996 by bi-partisan majorities and signed into law by President Clinton. The practical effect of Pres. Obama’s failure to defend DOMA would be to leave a federal trial court’s decision unreviewable by higher courts.
“On the one hand this is a truly shocking extra-constitutional power grab in declaring gay people are a protected class, and it’s also a defection of duty on the part of the President Obama,” said Maggie Gallagher, Chairman of NOM, “On the other hand, the Obama administration was throwing this case in court anyway. The good news is this now clears the way for the House to intervene and to get lawyers in the court room who actually want to defend the law, and not please their powerful political special interests.”
And from FRC president Tony Perkins:
“This decision by President Obama and the Department of Justice is appalling. The President’s failure to defend DOMA is also a failure to fulfill his oath to ‘faithfully execute the office of President of the United States.’ What will be the next law that he will choose not to enforce or uphold?
“Marriage as a male-female union has been easily defended in court and overwhelmingly supported by the American people. There is absolutely no excuse beyond pandering to his liberal political base for President Obama’s decision to abandon his constitutional role to defend a federal law enacted overwhelmingly by Congress.
“With this decision the President has thrown down the gauntlet, challenging Congress. It is incumbent upon the Republican leadership to respond by intervening to defend DOMA, or they will become complicit in the President’s neglect of duty,” concluded Perkins.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.