Republican Senatorial Candidates From Massachusetts Debate DOMA

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The three Massachusetts Republicans vying for the Bay State’s open U.S. Senate seat held their first debate on Wednesday night. Candidates Mike Sullivan, Dan Winslow and Gabriel Gomez were asked to give their views on two marriage-related questions:

  • Is the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) constitutional?
  • Should states have the right to maintain discriminatory marriage laws?

The marriage segment of the debate begins at the 7:55 minute mark on the video. My transcript of the segment is below the fold. Here are the highlights:

Is the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) constitutional?

The three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate were in unanimous agreement that DOMA should be repealed:

SULLIVAN: I’m in support of the repeal of DOMA regardless of whether or not it’s constitutional. I think people in Massachusetts that are recognized as married couples should all be afforded the exact same benefits.

WINSLOW: I think it’s a shame that the U.S. Supreme Court has to decide this issue, because the Senate and Congress should decide this issue by repealing DOMA. I support the repeal of DOMA, and I believe in the equality of marriage for all people in Massachusetts and the country.

GOMEZ: I think that if two people are in love, they should be able to get married, irrespective. I support repealing DOMA.

Given these responses, the candidates should be asked by voters and debate moderators the logical follow-up question, “If elected, would you co-sponsor the Respect For Marriage Act (HR1116 / S598), which would fully repeal DOMA?”

The DOMA case currently before the Supreme Court, United States v. Windsor, would only repeal section 3 of DOMA, not the entire act.

Congressmen Stephen Lynch (D-MA08) and Ed Markey (D-MA05), the Democratic candidates running for the open U.S. Senate seat, are co-sponsors of the Respect For Marriage Act. The bill is expected to be reintroduced in the 113th Congress soon.

Should states have the right to maintain discriminatory marriage laws?

Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Gomez emphatically supported a “states’ rights” view that each state should be able to pass marriage laws that discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. Dan Winslow was non-committal.

SULLIVAN: I start from the premise that marriage is best defined by the state, for my federalist principles.

WINSLOW: I think that this goes to the core values of who we are. Equality and freedom. And I think that if one of is not equal than none of us is equal. That we have to work to make all of us free and equal throughout American society regardless of who you are or who you love. And if I were fortunate enough to earn the vote of the people of Massachusetts…I would work to make sure that those principles were followed throughout my time in the Senate.

GOMEZ: This is a state issue…You know, the people of California spoke. And while I don’t agree with what they did, you need to respect what the states decide on a state-by-state issue.

Despite Mr. Gomez’s states’ rights position, both he and Mr. Winslow expressed strong opposition to discrimination. For example, in a follow-up comment, Mr. Gomez said emphatically that “I’m against any kind of discrimination. I think that if two people are in love, they should be able to get married. It should be decided on the state level, and I’m for repealing DOMA, and I’ll respect the decision of the people of California made, but that’s in front of the Supreme Court. But I’m against any kind of discrimination.”

Although Mr. Sullivan did not make any explicit statement against discrimination, a sense of fair play seems to underpin his thinking on DOMA repeal (“I think people in Massachusetts that are recognized as married couples should all be afforded the exact same benefits.”)

Considering these candidates’ opposition to discrimination or presumed sense of fair play, voters should ask them, “If elected, would you co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA; HR 1397 / S 811) that protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people against employment discrimination?

ENDA would, according to Human Rights Campaign, “extend federal employment discrimination protections currently provided based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age and disability to sexual orientation and gender identity.” A national law is needed because “it remains legal in 29 states to discriminate based on sexual orientation, and in 34 states to do so based on gender identity or expression.”

Congressmen Stephen Lynch (D-MA08) and Ed Markey (D-MA05) are co-sponsors of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The bill is expected to be reintroduced in the 113th Congress soon.

Massachusetts already has anti-discrimination laws on the books that are more comprehensive than ENDA, so supporting ENDA should be a straightforward choice for a senator representing Massachusetts.

Cross-posted at Pam’s House Blend.


TRANSCRIPT

Moderator: Is DOMA constitutional?

Sullivan: I’m a federalist by heart. I believe things like the definition of marriage is best left to the democratic process. People, the process at the state level. Massachusetts has recognized same-sex marriages a decade ago.

I’m in support of the repeal of DOMA regardless of whether or not it’s constitutional. I think people in Massachusetts that are recognized as married couples should all be afforded the exact same benefits.

Winslow: I believe that the government that is best is the government that’s closest to the people, it’s most accountable and transparent to the people. And for that reason I don’t like to have federalized government where we can avoid it.

I think it’s a shame that the US Supreme Court has to decide this issue, because the Senate and Congress should decide this issue by repealing DOMA. I support the repeal of DOMA, and I believe in the equality of marriage for all people in Massachusetts and the country.

Gomez: I’m a firm believer in the 10th Amendment. I’m against any kind of discrimination as well. I think that if two people are in love, they should be able to get married, irrespective. I support repealing DOMA.

I think this should be decided on a state-by-state level, and I’m proud that Massachusetts was the first state to actually legalize gay marriage, and eight or nine have follow suit including the District of Columbia. I hope the Supreme Court repeals DOMA.

Moderator: So you would keep this at the state level? What about any constitutional rights for same-sex married couples at the state level? Could a state say “we’re not going to recognize it”? How do you have any consistency?

Sullivan: I start from the premise that marriage is best defined by the state, for my federalist principles. Democracy works best when there’s an engaged citizenry. And each state’s traditionally been able to define marriage, and that’s what works best is the definition by states to make those determinations. That’s where significant social policies are best left to be decided, at the state level.

Winslow: I think that this goes to the core values of who we are. Equality and freedom. And I think that if one of is not equal than none of us is equal. That we have to work to make all of us free and equal throughout American society regardless of who you are or who you love.

And if I were fortunate enough to earn the vote of the people of Massachusetts and in Republican party and independents who can vote as well as ultimately in the June election, I would work to make sure that those principles were followed throughout my time in the Senate.

Gomez: This is a state issue, and this actually coming up on the Prop 8 that’s in front of the Supreme Court as well. You know, the people of California spoke. And while I don’t agree with what they did, you need to respect what the states decide on a state-by-state issue. And that’s going in front of the Supreme Court as well.

Sullivan: It’s not clear to me where Mr. Winslow’s position is on that. I’m not sure if he’s saying he’s in favor of states making these decisions, or it should be left up to the federal government to define marriage.

Winslow: I’m not sure of Mr. Sullivan’s position on marriage from what he said because I support equality of marriage for all persons — all persons in Massachusetts and throughout the country, and I want to be clear about that. Mr. Sullivan wants to have government intrude into the personal lives of people, and something that is so personal about who they get to marry, and I disagree with that, respectfully.

Moderator: Mr. Gomez, you want to check in on that?

Gomez: I’m very clear on where I stand. I’m against any kind of discrimination. I think that if two people are in love, they should be able to get married. It should be decided on the state level, and I’m for repealing DOMA, and I’ll respect the decision of the people of California made, but that’s in front of the Supreme Court. But I’m against any kind of discrimination.

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