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Posted by on Jun 16, 2009 in Politics, Society | 8 comments

Mounting Criticism of the ‘Disturbing’ Justice Dept DOMA Brief

The NYTimes editorial today on the recent Department of Justice brief defending DOMA:

The Obama administration, which came to office promising to protect gay rights but so far has not done much, actually struck a blow for the other side last week. It submitted a disturbing brief in support of the Defense of Marriage Act, which is the law that protects the right of states to not recognize same-sex marriages and denies same-sex married couples federal benefits. The administration needs a new direction on gay rights. […]

The brief insists it is reasonable for states to favor heterosexual marriages because they are the “traditional and universally recognized form of marriage.” In arguing that other states do not have to recognize same-sex marriages under the Constitution’s “full faith and credit” clause, the Justice Department cites decades-old cases ruling that states do not have to recognize marriages between cousins or an uncle and a niece.

These are comparisons that understandably rankle many gay people. In a letter to President Obama on Monday, Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights organization, said, “I cannot overstate the pain that we feel as human beings and as families when we read an argument, presented in federal court, implying that our own marriages have no more constitutional standing than incestuous ones.”

Laura Meckler at the Wall Street Journal:

The letter Monday from Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese included a detailed critique of the administration’s filing. “This brief would not have seen the light of day if someone in your administration who truly recognized our humanity and equality had weighed in with you,” he wrote.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said in a statement that the department was following routine in the filing, and wasn’t making a policy statement. “As it generally does with existing statutes, the Justice Department is defending the law on the books in court,” said Tracy Schmaler. “Until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system.”

Here’s the full HRC letter. Howard Dean was on The Rachel Maddow Show. He called the language in the brief “offensive” and said he doubts the President saw it. “It wasn’t a little too far. It was a lot too far.” Watch it.

Juan and Ken Ahonen-Jover, founders of EqualityGiving an organization of major LGBT donors and activists, authored a speech they’d like to see from President Obama. They based it on the Proclamation issued by the president on June 1, 2009 to for LGBT Pride Month:

“Forty years ago, patrons and supporters of the Stonewall Inn in New York City resisted police harassment that had become all too common for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.  Out of this resistance, the LGBT rights movement in America was born.

“LGBT Americans have made, and continue to make, great and lasting contributions that continue to strengthen the fabric of American society.  There are many well-respected LGBT leaders in all professional fields, including the arts and business communities.  LGBT Americans also mobilized the Nation to respond to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic and have played a vital role in broadening this country’s response to the HIV pandemic.

“I am proud to be the first President to appoint openly LGBT candidates to Senate-confirmed positions in the first 100 days of an Administration.

“The LGBT rights movement has achieved great progress, but there is more work to be done. [READ ON]”