I intend to keep the focus of this blog on the Iranian elections for as long as possible. But I could not let the Obama Administration’s decision to echo the Bush Administration line on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) go unmentioned:
As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama claimed “we need to fully repeal the Defense of Marriage Act,” which says states are not required to recognize other states’ same-sex marriages.
That was then. This week, the Obama administration is facing the ire of gay rights groups after it filed a brief in California federal court defending the Defense of Marriage Act and calling it a “valid exercise of Congress’ power” that is saving taxpayers money.
The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996. It doesn’t prohibit same-sex marriages; instead, it says that no state “shall be required” to honor same-sex marriages taking place elsewhere or any “right or claim arising from such relationship.”
Two married California men, Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer, sued the federal government to overturn DOMA. They claim that it violates their constitutionally-protected rights to travel, their rights to free speech, and their due process rights.
The U.S. Justice Department’s brief doesn’t address the morality of same-sex marriage. Instead, it makes the narrower legal argument that DOMA “merely permits each state to follow its own policy with respect to marriage” and the law “does not restrict any rights that have been recognized as fundamental.” It also says that it saves money by not paying out marriage benefits under federal law, a move that “preserves scarce government resources.”
Gay rights groups are livid on this issue, and understandably so; marriage is considered a fundamental right under the Constitution (the question, of course, becomes whether same-sex marriage is a fundamental right). But really, on the political front, who can be surprised? It was clear–or should have been–from the very beginning, that Barack Obama would use the LGBT community to get himself elected, and then ditch the community at the very first opportunity. Maybe if the now-outraged Andrew Sullivan had paid more attention to the important issues of the day, and less attention to Trig Palin’s matrilineal line, he would have seen this coming.
As the CBS story points out, the Justice Department could have declined to defend DOMA–just as the Justice Department has, in the past, declined to defend other acts of Congress. Instead, the Justice Department plunged into the defense of DOMA with both feet. The betrayal of the LGBT community is now complete; a terrible pity in my book, as I support same-sex marriage.