Justice Department defends DOMA, despite Obama’s call for repeal

Department of JusticeThe Obama administration declared today that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) discriminates against gays and lesbians, while at the same time Justice Department lawyers moved in federal court to defend the law, and urged a federal judge to throw out a case brought by a gay couple married in California.

“The Department of Justice has filed a response to a legal challenge to the Defense of Marriage Act, as it traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged,” the President said in a written statement. “This brief makes clear, however, that my administration believes that the act is discriminatory and should be repealed by Congress.”

In the brief, Assistant Attorney General Tony West (pictured, below right) wrote that theĀ  Obama administration “does not support DOMA as a matter of policy, believes that it is discriminatory, and supports its repeal.”

Tony West“Consistent with the rule of law, however, the Department of Justice has long followed the practice of defending federal statutes as long as reasonable arguments can be made in support of their constitutionality, even if the department disagrees with a particular statute as a policy matter, as it does here,” West added.

The department’s filing in the case has angered gay rights activists who supported Obama’s candidacy in part because of his pledge to repeal the DOMA, which denies federal recognition of gay marriage and gives states the right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prevents gays from serving openly in the military.

The court filing in Los Angeles today was in response to a lawsuit by Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer, who are challenging the federal law, which prevents couples from benefiting from federal rights and protections connected to marriage.

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