U.S. House DOMA lawyer: Gays have political power, don’t need legal protections

Paul Clement

Paul Clement

SAN FRANCISCO — The attorney representing the U.S. House of Representatives in defending the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), said in documents filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco Friday that, “homosexuals have a great deal of political power and are not entitled to the safeguards that courts have established for laws that discriminate against racial minorities or women.”

Paul Clement

Paul Clement, former U.S. Solicitor General under President George W. Bush, also argued in his filing that Congress had legitimate reasons for granting marital benefits only to opposite-sex couples — tradition, the “unknown consequences of a novel redefinition of marriage,” and the government’s “interest in maintaining the link between marriage and children.”

Karen Golinski, a lesbian federal court attorney, is seeking family insurance coverage for her spouse, which was denied under the terms of DOMA, the 1996 law which bars federal benefits, such as joint tax filings, Social Security survivor payments and immigration sponsorship, to same-sex couples legally married in their states.

Clement’s legal brief states, “A spate of recent news stories only confirms the conclusion that homosexuals are far from politically powerless,” arguing that U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White should deny Golinski’s motion for summary judgment in her favor.

“Accordingly, gays and lesbians cannot be labeled ‘politically powerless’ without draining that phrase of all meaning,” the brief adds.

Golinski’s attorney, Tara Borelli, says DOMA under which Golinski’s spouse was denied benefits violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.

“We don’t think that DOMA can survive a court review under any level,” Borelli added.

Clement countered that in his opinion, DOMA is subject to a lower level of court scrutiny because gays and lesbians don’t meet the legal criteria for groups who receive heightened protection from discrimination. Using the terms of that lower standard, DOMA is constitutional, he argues.

Clement’s legal brief also utilizes data showing that a recent poll of Americans reveals greater support for same-sex marriage. He also points to New York‘s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, and the repeal last month of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” policy that had prohibited gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U. S. military.

“In the debate over marriage, gay-rights groups … have gained more political ground in less time than just about any other interest group in American political history,” Clement wrote.

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