"Defending Marriage" House Hearing Panelists Set for Friday

Posted by Chris Geidner
April 14, 2011 4:45 PM |

On Friday, April 15, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution will take a look at "Defending Marriage" in a hearing called by the subcommittee chairman, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.). The hearing is set to take place at 10 a.m. in room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building and is slated to feature three witnesses, six Republican members and four Democratic members.

This baker's dozen of folks could lead to quite the hearing.

Screen shot 2011-04-14 at 4.44.22 PM.pngMaggie Gallagher, the chairman of the board of the National Organization for Marriage, is to be joined by Edward Whelan, the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, as the Republican-picked witnesses. The Democratic-picked witness is professor Carlos Ball, a law professor at Rutgers School of Law (bio) and the author of a new book, The Right to be Parents: How LGBT Mothers and Fathers Have Revolutionized Family Law.

In addition to Franks, the Republicans on the subcommittee include vice chairman Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.) and Reps. Steve Chabot (Ohio), Randy Forbes (Va.), Steve King (Iowa) and Jim Jordan (Ohio).

The Democrats include ranking minority member Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) -- coming off today's introduction of the Uniting American Families Act and his role as the lead sponsor of the Respect for Marriage Act -- and Reps. Mike Quigley (Ill.), John Conyers (Mich.) and Bobby Scott (Va.).

The Republicans likely will be focusing their energy on the Department of Justice's Feb. 23 decision to stop defending Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. On the day of the decision, Whelan wrote at National Review Online, "Attorney General Holder has the gall to claim to be acting consistent with DOJ's 'longstanding practice of defending the constitutionality of duly-enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense.' There are lots of reasonable arguments in defense of DOMA. The Obama administration has abandoned those arguments for purely political reasons."

Also, expect Gallagher to place particular emphasis on the failure of any state to have advanced on marriage equality this year, from Rhode Island to Maryland and from New York to New Jersey. And, though the focus appears to be DOMA, Gallagher has spent significant time talking about the "right" of people to vote on marriage equality, particularly in the District. With Jordan, the leading member to support forcing a vote in the District, as a friendly member on the subcommittee, it seems likely that the topic could be raised by one or both of them.

One thing that will be interesting to watch from the Democratic side is if and how Tax Day, on April 18 this year but traditionally associated on April 15, will be used by members to discuss the discrimination that same-sex couples face. Additionally, the April 15 hearing coincides with the Day of Silence, an annual event organized by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

Another interesting question is if or how the topic of Louis Marinelli -- the former NOM employee who was the director of the "Summer for Marriage" bus tour -- is broached. On April 8, Good As You's Jeremy Hooper, in an extensive interview with Marinelli, announced that Marinelli had changed his mind and now supports marriage equality for same-sex couples.

MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell addressed Marinelli's change of heart earlier this week:

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[Image: Gallagher at a Cato Institute forum in 2010.]

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