doma

Why Rep. Jared Polis Does Not Support Federal Gay Marriage

POLIS

Sounds like gay Rep. Jared Polis and Barack Obama have something in common: neither wants the federal government approving same-sex marriage. In a personal commentary (that begins, bizarrely, with a tale of adopting a puppy) to explain why he’s co-sponsoring the DOMA-repealing Respect for Marriage Act, the Colorado congressman expounds on this: he wants states to continue fighting over whether to legalize marriage, even if gay Americans suffer.

Of course, marriage has always been a state issue. Individual states decide the rules and regulations. But Rep. Jerry Nadler’s Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA and force the government to recognize legal same-sex marriages, does nothing itself to achieve marriage equality throughout the land. Writes Polis:

The Respect for Marriage Act will provide couples with much-needed certainty that their lawful marriages will be honored under federal law and that they will have the same access to federal responsibilities and rights as all other married couples.

The Respect for Marriage Act would not tell any state who can marry or how married couples must be treated for purposes of state law, and would not obligate any person, church, city or state to celebrate or license a marriage of two people of the same sex.

It would merely restore the approach historically taken by states of determining, under principles of comity and full faith and credit, whether to honor a couple’s marriage for purposes of state law. Churches should be able to decide what kinds of unions are sanctified by their denomination, but not what kinds of unions are accepted in the civil arena. As an example, the Catholic Church will not remarry a divorced person (without an “annulment”), but divorced men and women are allowed to remarry under civil law.

To be sure, Polis isn’t alone in his position. But his stance, to let each state battle marriage rights out in the courts or legislature, means gay Americans living in more than 40 states still cannot secure federal recognition of their unions, because their states won’t do so first. And that includes Jared and his partner Marlon, whose Colorado residency prohibits them from all the rights of marriage.

That is, of course, unless Jared and Marlon, or any couple, secure a marriage license in a state where it’s legal; the RFM Act would, in fact, grant those couples federal recognition, even if their home states still ban gay marriage. But no, you can’t just go to Connecticut and get married, and then move back to Colorado and expect to have your rights instated, because RFM doesn’t go that far. And neither will Polis.