Rep. Trent Franks prepares secretive hearing on Defense of Marriage Act

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Thursday, April 14, 2011 at 9:24 am

Update, 10:50 a.m. EST: This post now includes a witness list for the hearing.

The U.S. House Subcommittee on the Constitution is scheduled to hold a hearing Friday titled “Defending Marriage,” called by subcommittee chairman Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who has recently called for the impeachment of President Barack Obama because of his decision to order his administration to no longer defend the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Neither the witness list nor the intent of the hearing has been made public. A representative of the Subcommittee on the Constitution told The American Independent to expect release of probably three witness names and written testimony by 10 a.m. Thursday morning via the committee’s website. (Update: The list is now posted on the Judiciary Committee’s website.)

People For the American Way Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery predicts Franks’ hearing will be a parade of “extremists.”

Montgomery told TAI during a phone interview that Rep. Franks is “at the far-right fringe of the far right.” Montgomery also assumed the only purpose of the Franks Defending Marriage hearing would be “To promote that far-right agenda and provide them propaganda against the administration from here until 2012.”

Franks is the founder of an official Focus on the Family affiliate called the Center for Arizona Policy (CAP). Formerly known as the Arizona Family Research Institute, the CAP was instrumental in the passage of Arizona’s Prop 102 adding an amendment to Arizona’s constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Montgomery would not speculate on who would be called as witnesses. But according to a recent article in The Washington Blade, Maggie Gallagher, chair of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) said that she would appreciate the chance to speak at a hearing on DOMA. (Update: Gallagher is scheduled to appear at the hearing.) Gallagher has testified on marriage laws before the Subcommittee on the Constitution previously and recently before the New Hampshire and Maryland legislatures. The Maryland legislature unexpectedly shelved a bill to legalize same-sex marriage last month that was believed to have broad support.

Montgomery told TAI he experienced Franks’ views first hand at the Take Back America conference in St. Louis in 2009. In a speech at the event, Franks called President Obama, “An enemy of humanity.” During the conference, Franks also staked claim on his belief in the “birther” conspiracy.

“This is the kind of ranting you would expect to hear from a talk show host, not a subcommittee chair,” Montgomery said of Franks’ statements.

But the statements made at the 2009 conference are just a sample of Franks’ far right positions.

Franks, along with other representatives, claimed a Muslim civil rights group was using congressional interns to spy on Congress. Franks also aligned himself with a movement that believes abortion policy is committing genocide against African Americans going so far as to introduce legislation barring so-called “race-based” abortion — a bill that led the chairman of the Frederick Douglass Foundation to praise Franks for being “a trailblazer.”

Franks’ co-sponsor of that bill was fellow Judiciary subcommittee member, Vice-Chair Mike Pence (R-Ind.). Pence has been in the national spotlight since introducing the eponymous Pence Amendment aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood –- an issue that nearly caused a government shutdown last week.

TAI recently reported on Pence’s connection to Focus on the Family affiliate — the Indiana Family Institute — that led the successful effort to pass an anti-gay marriage amendment in the Indiana Senate last month.

A call for comment to Representative Franks’ office was not returned.

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