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Ditching DOMA

Publication Date: 
March 27, 2013
Emily Bazelon

Professor Pamela Karlan was featured in a photograph in Emily Bazelon's article about DOMA in Slate.

Why did Congress pass the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996? Before I went to the Supreme Court on Wednesday morning, I thought the answer was obvious: to prevent gay couples from receiving federal marriage benefits, as a signal of condemnation or at least displeasure.

So it was a surprise to hear Paul Clement, defending DOMA on behalf of House Republicans, stay as far from that rationale as possible. Clement’s central argument was this: Congress was merely striving for “uniformity,” ensuring that gay couples would be treated the same throughout the country. “We want to treat same-sex couples in New York the same as in Oklahoma,” Clement said. It was a thin, implausible reed to cling to. And it won’t support five votes for upholding DOMA’s definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.