News (USA)

Justice department reluctantly defends ‘Defense of Marriage Act’

MA Gay MarriageBOSTON — Justice Department lawyers are reluctantly defending the federal law that prevents recognition of same-sex marriages, making their legal arguments in a Boston court while pointing out that the Obama administration opposes the measure, the Boston Globe reports.

On Friday, Justice attorneys asked a federal judge in Boston to dismiss a lawsuit that claims a federal law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman is unconstitutional because it denies gay couples access to federal benefits given to other married couples.

In court documents, however, government attorneys make it clear the Obama administration thinks the law is discriminatory and should be repealed. But the department said it was defending the statute because the law is “constitutionally permissible.”

“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,’’ the attorneys said.

The law defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Six same-sex couples and three men whose husbands have died – one of the deceased was retired Massachusetts congressman Gerry E. Studds – have filed a lawsuit, asserting that the law treats them like second-class citizens and is unconstitutional.

Legal specialists have said the suit filed in March was the first serious challenge by a group of plaintiffs to the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law passed in 1996.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the first in the nation to legalize gay marriage, filed a separate challenge to the law in July.

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