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Does Alaska Congressman Don Young still support DOMA?

Eric Christopher Adams
Supporters of same-sex marriage rally in front of the federal building in downtown Anchorage. Loren Holmes photo

Don Young thinks the definition of marriage should be decided at the state level, not by the Federals. On Wednesday, as the Republican-controlled House of Representatives defended the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) before the U.S. Supreme Court -- the executive branch refused to defend the law -- Alaska Dispatch asked Rep. Young to go on the record with his position.

In essence, the federal government defined marriage as between one man, and one woman, when it passed DOMA back in the 1990s. At the time, Young supported DOMA and voted for it.

Seventeen years later, Young stands behind his belief that marriage is an institution that's only appropriate for a man and a woman, according to a prepared statement from his press secretary, Mike Anderson. But perhaps the congressman's support of a federal law defining marriage has evolved.

Here's where Young stands, today, on gay marriage and the Defense of Marriage Act, according to his office:

“Congressman Young supported the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996, bipartisan legislation that was signed into law by President Clinton. Congressman Young personally believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but ultimately it is a state issue, and looks forward to the Supreme Court’s decision.”

Court watchers believe that a majority of justices will uphold the rulings of eight lower federal courts finding DOMA unconstitutional, a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and strike down at least part of the law. Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, widely perceived as the swing vote between the court's conservative and liberal blocs, voiced skepticism Wednesday about the right or authority of the federal government to define marriage, which has traditionally been a right of the individual states.

"The question is whether or not the Federal government, under our federalism scheme, has the authority to regulate marriage,” Kennedy said during oral arguments before the court. Reason magazine quoted Kennedy as repeatedly suggesting that "he saw DOMA as an unconstitutional federal intrusion on 'the essence of the State police power.'"

That's an interpretation supported by at least one of Alaska's other federal delegates, Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, who on Monday defended his support for gay marriage by referring to DOMA as example of yet another "government intrusion" into the private lives and daily business of Alaskans.

A ruling from the Supreme Court on DOMA is expected this summer.

Contact Eric Christopher Adams at eric(at)alaskadispatch.com