The Defense of Marriage Act : What It Does and Why It Is Vital for Traditional Marriage in AmericaBy Chris Gacek Senior Fellow for Regulatory Policy
The federal Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law in September 1996, is a vital element in preserving traditional marriage in America for two reasons. First, it protects the law-making capacity of the various states in the field of family law. It does this by making it possible for the states to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman without fear that the U.S. Constitution's Full Faith and Credit Clause will be used by the courts to trump their marital policies. Thus, the Defense of Marriage Act allows each state to formulate its own public policies, rather than be railroaded into accepting the marriage norms of a few outlying socially liberal states. Second, the Act defines marriage traditionally for purposes of federal law, thereby preventing novel and unjustified interpretations of federal statutes and regulations. This aspect of the law has ensured much-needed uniformity across federal law and programs.