At some point in life we all learn there is more to a wish than what we expect. The little girl that wants a horse rarely thinks about the time expense and effort required to maintain a horse. Riding can be so much fun but there is the burden of care, feeding, exercising, and of course mucking out the stall.
Like the little girl often special interest groups in politics wish for positions or outcomes of an issue without regard as to collateral impact it may have. Yesterday we may have seen just such a moment. It was announced yesterday that the Obama administration will decline to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. This law was passed 15 years ago and defines marriage as only between a man and a woman.
This action was applauded by some special interest groups. There can be honest sincere debate as to the merits of the law or the constitutionality of the law but that is a matter for the courts. The issue here is not the Defense of Marriage Act the issue is the action of the executive branch of the federal government. The question that must be asked is would the same special interest groups applaud if the President announced his administration would not longer defend discrimination in housing based on sexual orientation?
When any President takes the oath of office they pledge “to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The Constitution clearly defines three branches of government and it is the responsibility of the judicial branch to determine the validity of laws under our Constitution. Our Presidents are not kings granted the right to act alone and only enforce laws they agree with.
It is an ill advised perilous position for a President to pick and choose which laws the justice department will enforce. Congress has the responsibility to pass laws the executive branch has the responsibility to enforce the laws and the judicial branch makes judgment as to the legality of any law. When a president decides to arbitrarily pick and choose which laws to defend he is extending his judgment beyond the scope of responsibility for which the office of President was charged.
Have other presidents refused to argue defense of a law before the courts? Yes but in the vast majority of cases the point of law revolved around the authority or restriction of authority being place on the office of President by the Congress. In simple terms the lack of argument was due to the direct impact on the constitutional authority of the office of President of the United States. No such position is present in this decision by the Obama administration.
The validity or enforceability of any law should be left to the courts. The three branches of government have clear roles to play under our Constitution and each branch should carry out their duties with great care and respect for the others.
How you get your wish can be just as important as or more important than what you wished for. Support what ever position you like on the issue of the Defense of Marriage Act but more importantly demand good government. Demand that all our laws be enforced, and that the responsibilities for each branch of government be respected and honored.
When we compromise our principles to reach our goals we erode our foundations of government and the moral fiber of our nation. There is no goal worth that price.
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