When the Justice Department recently announced that it will stop defending part of the Defense of Marriage Act -- the part that bars the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples in states like Massachusetts and Iowa -- House Republican leaders jumped at the chance to defend the government's discrimination.
So much for their pledge to focus on jobs and the economy, or their vow to keep the federal government out of the states' business. It's time to stroke their demanding mistress, the religious right.
This may be a harder seduction than Republicans imagine, and an ugly one to watch. First, they'll have to push into a New York federal court and tell the judge why Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, who were together for 40 years when Thea died of multiple sclerosis two years ago -- and who were legally married in Canada -- why they should be treated as strangers under federal law. They'll have to explain why, even though the Empire State recognizes the couple's marriage, Thea's 81-year-old widow should have to pay a $350,000 federal tax bill that she would not have faced if Thea had been a man.
Then, GOP leaders will have to bully into federal court in Connecticut and tell the judge why Jerry Passaro and Tom Buckholtz, who were together for 13 years when Tom died of lymphoma in 2009, and who were legally married in the Constitution State, why they should be treated as unrelated buds by the feds. They'll have to make clear why Jerry, who is disabled, should be denied Tom's monthly pension and the Social Security death benefit that he would have received if the husband he cared for in heartbreaking sickness had been a wife.
Then, they'll have to try to explain away the similar stories of married couples who pledged their love in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and California.