Justin Amash, Bob Barr, and the Slowly Falling DOMA Dominoes

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 29 2013 6:23 PM

Justin Amash, Bob Barr, and the Slowly Falling DOMA Dominoes

At a speech in Grand Rapids this week, Rep. Justin Amash evolved. Elected in 2010, he'd said as recently as 2011 that the Defense of Marriage Act was worth defending. "The Department of Justice has made a decision not to defend a provision of the Defense of Marriage Act that defines marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman for purposes of interpreting federal law," he said at the time. "I support House leadership's subsequent decision to direct the non-partisan office of the House General Counsel to initiate a legal defense of DOMA."

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

But this week, at the Grand Rapids speech, Amash appeared to back away from his position.

"I don't want the government deciding who has a legitimate baptism, who has a legitimate communion, who's involved in other personal relationships we have," Amash said. "I want the government out of it."
On DOMA specifically, Amash said he has "always opposed the federal definition of marriage in DOMA. So if it were repealed, I think that would be a step in the right direction, with respect to that portion of DOMA."

Amash is one of the least scripted members of Congress. Like Rand Paul, it sometimes feels like he's figuring out his position as the words leave his mouth. (This is a good thing, unless you're really into dull politicians.) Today, on his Twitter account (and without prodding) he tweeted this:

Real threat to traditional marriage & religious liberty is government, not gay couples who love each other & want to spend lives together.

But the news, as HuffPost's Jennifer Bendery spotted, was DOMA. She engaged him in a Socratic dialogue about the policy. "I support repealing federal definition of marriage portion of DOMA," he said. "Always have."

In isolation, this would be just another story about Justin Amash, rebel Republican. But it's been less than 24 hours since former Rep. Bob Barr jumped into the race for an open seat in Georgia. His slogan is "Experience, to Right the Wrongs." Among those wrongs? Barr pushed DOMA in 1996, during his first term in Congress. He's since recanted and come out full-bore for gay marriage.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 



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