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The three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate were in unanimous agreement that DOMA should be repealed: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