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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript


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MATTHEWS: OK, Congressman Frank, is that how far your drafting is
taking us to...

REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: No, Chris, I literally don`t understand what that means. There is a fundamental confusion here. There
has never been a federal law saying what marriage is. Marriage has been
left to the states.

Now, first I would say, as far as this being a wedge issue, the Democrats already in the U.S. House of Representatives and through the president have made clear that we are opposed to bans on same-sex marriage.

The House voted.

I`m just -- I`m puzzled. People get it backwards. A platform is supposed to tell the elected officials how they should vote. We`ve already voted. In the House, 10 days ago, on an amendment to reaffirm the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies recognition to those state marriages which have been allowed, the Republicans voted 230-5 to reaffirm this cancellation of our marriages and the Democrats voted 161-17 against DOMA. So the two parties are already split there.

But the point is, there is no federal law to be passed. Look at the situation with race. When there were states that would not allow interracial marriage, even after the Civil Rights Acts had passed in `64 and `65, there was no federal law saying that interracial marriage had to be allowed. It was done by the Supreme Court.

The constitutional framework has always been states decide who gets married. Our objection to DOMA is that it for the first time has the federal government picking and choosing who can get married.

But there`s never been a federal law defining marriage. I don`t know how you would do one. It goes beyond the role of the federal government.

The role of the federal government is, as I said, to recognize what the -- the states have done.

Now, it is true that the Supreme Court stepped in, in the Loving case, to say you can`t use race, but that was a court decision. It wasn`t a congressional enactment and it wasn`t (INAUDIBLE) phony issue.

MATTHEWS: OK, well, Congressman, you know there are other precedents.
We had the Civil Rights Act in `64. It said...

FRANK: It did nothing about marriage, Christopher!

MATTHEWS: ... you couldn`t deny somebody access to public accommodation.

FRANK: No, Christopher, you`re wrong!

MATTHEWS: That`s a federal law. So just tell me this...

FRANK: You`re wrong. You`re wrong, Chris.

MATTHEWS: I`m wrong about what?

FRANK: In 1964, there were federal -- state laws against interracial
marriage. And the law you`re talking...

MATTHEWS: I`m not talking about interracial marriage. I`m talking
about public accommodations. You say there is no precedent for the federal
government declaring something a right.

FRANK: Defining marriage.

No, Chris, please, don`t distort what I said. I said there is no
precedent for a federal law defining marriage.


FRANK: Of course federal laws declare things all the time.

But you have made my point. In `64, in that far-reaching Civil Rights
Act and then later in the Voting Rights Act, the federal government didn`t
try to strike down the state ban on interracial marriages. That had to be
done through the courts.


FRANK: It was not something that could be reached by statute.

MATTHEWS: OK. So what did Mayor Villaraigosa mean when he said federal law?

FRANK: What do you think I would answer you that? That you should ask Mayor Villaraigosa.


FRANK: I think what happened is people who haven`t followed the law understand, yes, we would like it to be national, but literally that has never happened.

And the issue -- and what`s happening I think is people are trying to -- I don`t know -- unintentionally cloud the issue. It has always been up to the states. The Defense of Marriage Act interfered with the states.


FRANK: The only federal rule on the subject was the Defense of Marriage Act, which the Democrats are trying to overthrow. I would hope if President Obama is reelected he would appoint justices who would then follow the Constitution.


FRANK: But that`s the level at which it would be dealt with, as it
was in race.

MATTHEWS: OK. Let`s talk about the politics, Mark Halperin. If the Democrats were to ask for a far-reaching platform plank the said in the plank the policy of the United States should be marriage equality, would that be a big problem for them politically in North Carolina, Ohio, places like that?

problem. But Congressman Frank is right.


MATTHEWS: It`s going to be state by state.

HALPERIN: There`s no way it can end up that way.

The only way I can think of that you could craft a federal statute that would have the effect you are talking about is if you linked it to something, if you said states can`t get certain kinds of aid, but given the recent Supreme Court decision and general precedents, I don`t think there is a chance that will happen.

State by state and overturned DOMA is I suspect where they are headed.
And the politics of that are already I think divided.

MATTHEWS: Well, let`s talk about it. If it comes out as a state-by-state proposal, it`s up to the states and the Democratic Party recognizes that situation...

HALPERIN: And urges states to make it legal.

MATTHEWS: How is that going to affect Ohio?

HALPERIN: I think Ohio, Iowa, Virginia, and North Carolina are all states where Democrats can look at it and say if the targeted messages go out right, this could on balance hurt them. And those are four really important states.

MATTHEWS: Your thoughts, Mr. Frank, about how this will affect the election?


FRANK: Chris, this is -- I`m puzzled by this.

The president has already said that is his position. He said DOMA is unconstitutional and he believes people should have a right to get married
to people of the same sex and he`s actually taken concrete action to oppose
it. I believe all the Ohio Democrats voted against the Defense of Marriage

So, on this issue, the Democratic position is already there. Frankly, people are giving the platform a lot more prominence than it has ever really earned.


MATTHEWS: Let me make a prediction, Mr. Frank, Congressman. I predict that at the beginning of the Democratic Convention in Charlotte, when nothing else is happening Monday and Tuesday, when the word is out about the platform, we will be talking a lot about that on the front pages of newspapers across the country. This is a big issue politically.


FRANK: Except that -- I understand it is an issue. But I`m baffled by the media.

Why wasn`t it a big issue when the president of the United States repudiated DOMA and said it was unconstitutional and refused to defend it? Why wasn`t it a big issue when the House of Representatives voted on it and the Democrats voted 90 percent in favor of it? It is a position. There`s nothing new about it. This notion the platform is the key, the president has already taken action.


MATTHEWS: First time in history, because -- you know where I stand.

FRANK: The first time in history.

MATTHEWS: But the first time in history, Congressman Frank, first time in history a major political party in this country -- we only have two of them -- comes out for marriage equality, that`s big news. It`s going to be huge.


FRANK: You are wrong here in this sense. It is not the first time. The president of the United States and 90 percent of the House Democrats have already done it. This worship of a party platform, I can`t even remember what was ever in any party platform.


MATTHEWS: Well, you are on it now. You are writing it.


FRANK: No, what has happened is the Democratic position has already been very clear from the president and from the votes in the House.


HALPERIN: I think he`s right.


MATTHEWS: Thank you, Congressman Frank, as always.


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