Monday, August 17, 2009

BREAKING NEWS: Department of Justice Changes Tone in Brief Filing; Believes DOMA Is Discriminatory, Supports Repeal

The Department of Justice, in a brief filed this morning related to the Smelt case challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, the same case in which earlier the DOJ infamously compared same-sex marriage to incest, stated clearly its stance against DOMA.

"With respect to the merits, this Administration does not support DOMA as a matter of policy, believes that it is discriminatory, and supports its repeal. 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."
Sounds like the backlash brought on by the DOJ's earlier filing had its intended effect, though minor compared to calls that the DOJ not defend DOMA at all. No longer will the DOJ rely on past thinking and offensive strategy used by the prior Bush administration, nor submit language by rote. In this new day and age of Obama and the rebirth of the LGBT rights movement, they cannot get away with what was said before. But shouldn't our "fierce advocate", President Obama, act on precedent set by past administrations who did not agree with specific federal laws and not defend DOMA, which he finds "abhorrent"? I think so.

Many others agree. John Aravosis of America Blog, who was one of the DOJ's and Obama's loudest critics when they first filed the nasty motion in support of DOMA, stated today:

"I guess this is a step in the right direction. I don't want to fail to praise the administration for doing better, but to some degree the only reason this is "good" is because of how "bad" they did on the previous brief. In the end, they're still defending a discriminatory law that the president himself has called 'abhorrent.'"

Joe Solmonese, HRC's President said "It is not enough to disavow this discriminatory law, and then wait for Congress or the courts to act. While they contend that it is the DOJ's duty to defend an act of Congress, we contend that it is the administration's duty to defend every citizen from discrimination."

Equality California, who has successfully lobbied many acts of legislation in California, issued this statement from its Executive Director Geoff Kors.

“Although we are pleased that the Obama Administration has stated that DOMA is discriminatory and that same-sex couples are as good parents as heterosexual couples, we are troubled by the Obama Justice Department saying that discrimination based on sexual orientation does not raise serious constitutional issues and that such discrimination is rational,” Kors said. “Discrimination against same-sex couples is never rational, and laws that discriminate must be reviewed carefully to ensure that the majority’s animus toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is not the motive.”

President Obama issued this statement on the case:

"Today, 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. This brief makes clear, however, that my Administration believes that the Act is discriminatory and should be repealed by Congress. I have long held that DOMA prevents LGBT couples from being granted equal rights and benefits. While we work with Congress to repeal DOMA, my Administration will continue to examine and implement measures that will help extend rights and benefits to LGBT couples under existing law."

This specific brief that was filed supports the argument that the Smelt case should be dismissed since they argue the federal court lacks jurisdiction over the claims being filed, but should rather be in a state court, and that the Plaintiff's claims lack legal standing.

However, the DOJ dismisses many of the conservative's arguments about keeping DOMA in place because it protects children

"The United States does not believe that DOMA is rationally related to any legitimate government interests in procreation and child-rearing and is therefore not relying upon any such interests to defend DOMA's constitutionality."

DOJ Motion to Dismiss Smelt

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