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EDITORIAL: Attacking the Defense of Marriage Act

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The Obama administration is looking for a fight over the definition of marriage. That means asking more than 100 Democratic members of the House and Senate to repudiate their votes for the Defense of Marriage Act within 12 months of next year's midterm election. That's political poison for members in swing districts and purple or red states.

Apparently, the administration doesn't much care about public opinion or electoral consequences. On Friday, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. delivered a lecture at the University of Maine where he reiterated President Obama's intent to push for repeal of the law defining marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman for purposes of federal laws. In August, Justice Department spokesman Tracy Schmaler said much the same thing, arguing the "act is discriminatory and should be repealed."

Repealing this popular act will take a lot of work. The law passed by 85 to 14 in the Senate and 342 to 67 in the House of Representatives. Democrats backed the measure by more than a 2-to-1 margin. But if that proves too difficult, the Obama administration is also trying to get the courts to strike down the law.

Mr. Holder and Miss Schmaler, however, are not the only powerful Obama administration officials who want to redefine one of our society's central institutions. Cass Sunstein, Mr. Obama's powerful "regulatory czar," is equally out of touch. In a new edition of his book "Nudge," coauthored with Richard Thaler, the authors call marriage an "anachronism" and its benefits "surprisingly low." The book goes on to complain that marriage, "produce* unnecessary polarization. ... the most obvious difficulty is that religious organizations insist that they should be permitted to define marriage as they like, while same-sex couples insist that they should be able to make long-term commitments without having a second-class status."

So, because the federal government does not recognize marriage of homosexuals, Mr. Sunstein's solution is that we shouldn't recognize traditional marriage. There's more. An Obama nominee to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Chai Feldblum, claimed in 2005: "I, for one, am not sure whether marriage is a normatively good institution."

But marriage is not just some random, ancient and arcane custom. It's an institution that has survived throughout the ages and across cultures for a very good reason. It is a long-term contract to help ensure that children are provided and cared for. Protecting and nurturing the natural two-parent union is clearly important. Most people have seen the consequences when we fail - most vividly in the problems that children with divorced parents face.

The value of marriage hasn't just been proven by experience. Social science backs it as well. A large number of studies show children raised in a family with a mother and a father perform much better in everything in life, from school to staying away from a life of crime.

The abolition of marriage used to be the kind of academic nonsense that was safely confined to reality-optional college campuses. The dangerous idea can't be ignored any longer with true unbelievers in the sacrament holding the levers of power.

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