In response, we received the following letter from Senator Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts). Sen. Brown clearly supports the discriminatory federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), but tries to change the subject instead of directly admitting it.
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). As always, I value your input on all issues, and appreciate hearing from you.I believe in the right of every citizen to live in the manner he or she chooses. People should be entitled to basic civil rights, protection from violence and the freedom to pursue their dreams.
DOMA was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996 and defines marriage in federal law as a legal union between one man and one woman. As enacted, DOMA contains protections for the rights of states that do not want to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. Some states, including Massachusetts, have moved in a different direction by recognizing marriages between individuals of the same sex. Although it is my personal belief that marriage is a sacred bond between one man and one woman, I support the ability of each state to make its own laws in this area. It is important that these laws reflect the will of the people, either directly or through their representatives. Likewise, I recognize that civil unions provide a mechanism for a legal partnership and help preserve equality.
Again, thank you for sharing your views with me. Should legislation regarding marriage be debated by the Senate during the 112th Congress, I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind. If you have any additional comments or concerns, please feel free to contact me or visit my website at www.scottbrown.senate.gov.
These are weasel words because the issue with DOMA isn’t whether states should have a right to make their own marriage laws — the U.S. Constitution already guarantees that they do — but whether the federal government has unconstitutionally used DOMA to disrespect those state laws by refusing to confer on same-sex couples married under state law the 1138 federal rights, responsibilities and benefits that only come with marriage.
Sen. Brown is trying to deflect the conversation into one of states’ rights so that he doesn’t have to answer the real question: Since each state has the Constitutional right to make their own marriage laws, does Sen. Brown approve of the federal government’s usurpation of those rights through laws like DOMA?
Although Sen. Brown has a reputation for avoiding meaningful dialog on LGBT legislative issues, he did have a position statement on marriage posted on this website as recently as December, 2011. It said:
I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. States should be free to make their own laws in this area, so long as they reflect the people’s will as expressed through them directly, or as expressed through their elected representatives.
Sometime in January, 2012, however, Sen. Brown removed even that from his website. It exists now only in old cached versions.
Interestingly, Sen. Brown’s Issues page now has a subsection called “Independent Voice”, where he prides himself on being “an independent voter and thinker”. Yet in the links provided to illustrate the senator’s independence, there is no mention of his vote in 2010 to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. As one of only four Senate Republicans voting for repeal, and considering how contentious that vote was at the time but how uncontroversial it is now, you’d think he would trumpet it as an example of “an independent voter and thinker” in action.
It’s as if Sen. Brown is afraid to let his constituents know his mind or voting record on any legislative issue related to LGBT people. Why is that?
Elizabeth Warren, the leading Democrat vying for Brown’s Senate seat, has made clear and unequivocal statements to the press of her support for LGBT equality and addresses LGBT equality in the Civil Rights and Equality section of her Issues page. She’s even made an “It Gets Better” video.
In the face of Elizabeth Warren’s forthrightness and transparency on LGBT legislative issues, is Brown trying to hide his DADT repeal vote from conservative voters, or is he trying to hide his lingering anti-LGBT bias from independent and fair-minded voters? The only thing that seems certain is that he is hiding.
Cross-posted at Pam’s House Blend.