by Andy Birkey
President Obama’s Justice Department filed a brief on Thursday to uphold the federal Defense of Marriage Act in a lawsuit brought against the federal government by married same-sex couples from California. The Justice Department’s move has angered marriage equality advocates who say Obama is backing away from his campaign promise to repeal DOMA.
|Andy Birkey lives in Minneapolis. He is an LGBT community advocate and blogs on politcial, social, and community issues. Read his blog at Eleventh Avenue South|
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund called the brief “egregious.”
“Unfortunately, the malicious and outrageous arguments and language used in the Department of Justice’s marriage brief is only serving to inflame and malign the humanity of same-sex couples and our families,” said the Task Force. “This is unacceptable.”
The Human Rights Campaign quickly chastised the DoJ brief calling it the arguments contained within “most alarming” and “grounded neither in fact nor in law.”
“Mr. President, you have called DOMA ‘abhorrent’ and pledged to be a fierce advocate for our community,” said Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese. “As we approach the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, it is time for you to use your leadership to translate these principles into meaningful action.”
Religious right organizations noted last month that the Obama administration quietly removed all mentions of a repeal of DOMA from the White House website. That move coupled with Thursday’s brief has LGBT groups wondering if that commitment still stands.
“The Administration apparently determined that it had a duty to defend DOMA in the courts. The President has just as strong a duty to put his principles into action, and end discrimination against LGBT people and our families,” said Solmonese. “We call on the President to send legislation repealing DOMA to Congress.”
A Justice Department official told Politico that, like many cases, the department is compelled to uphold laws.
As it generally does with existing statutes, the Justice Department is defending the law on the books in court. The president has said he wants to see a legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act because it prevents LGBT couples from being granted equal rights and benefits. However, until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system.
Despite that, AmericaBlog found several instances where previous administrations refused to defend laws they disagreed with.
Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer are suing to have their marriage recognized in other states under the Full Faith and Credit clause of the U.S. Constitution. The federal Defense of Marriage Act blocks legally performed same-sex marriage from being recognized in other states.
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