Obama reversal on Defense of Marriage Act?

I have written about several of the lawsuits filed asking for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA.  One was filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.  Then Bill Clinton came out and said it was time for repeal.  Now it appears that the Obama administration is taking some positive steps toward repeal. 

According to stories by Josh Gerstein for Politico.com and the Washington Post, the newest brief filed by the Obama Justice Department contains language that makes opposition explicit.

President Obama made clear Monday that he favors the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and intends to ask Congress to repeal the 13-year-old law that denies benefits to domestic partners of federal employees and allows states to reject same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Obama has long opposed the law, which he has called discriminatory. But his Justice Department has angered the gay community, which favored Obama by a wide margin in last year’s election, by defending the law in court. The administration has said it is standard practice for the Justice Department to do so, even for laws that it does not agree with.

The Justice Department did so again Monday in its response in Smelt v. United States, a case before a U.S. District Court in California. But, for the first time, the filing itself made clear that the administration “does not support DOMA as a matter of policy, believes that it is discriminatory, and supports its repeal.”

According to Gerstein

In a brief filed Monday morning in a lawsuit challenging the validity of DOMA, the Justice Department put on the record that the administration favors repeal of the statute — a position that was omitted from a controversial legal filing the department made in June. DOJ also explicitly rejected arguments put forward by conservative groups that the importance of marriage for child rearing is a legitimate justification for DOMA’s ban on federal recognition of same-sex unions.

On the child-rearing issue, Simpson wrote:

The government does not contend that there are legitimate government interests in “creating a legal structure that promotes the raising of children by both of their biological parents” or that the government’s interest in “responsible procreation” justifies Congress’s decision to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman. … Since DOMA was enacted, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Medical Association, and the Child Welfare League of America have issued policies opposing restrictions on lesbian and gay parenting because they concluded, based on numerous studies, that children raised by gay and lesbian parents are as likely to be well-adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents. … 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 

This is a great development.  I hope that Obama does not wait too long for Congress to act before he issues a repeal by Executive Order.

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