August 17th, 2009
03:57 PM ET
5 years ago

US asks court to toss challenge to gay marriage law

The Justice Department submitted a court filing Monday that called a federal law regarding same-sex marriage 'discriminatory' but asked the court to throw out a challenge to the law.
The Justice Department submitted a court filing Monday that called a federal law regarding same-sex marriage 'discriminatory' but asked the court to throw out a challenge to the law.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama on Monday declared that the Defense of Marriage Act discriminates against gays and lesbians, even as his administration moved in federal court to defend the law.

In a court filing in Los Angeles, Justice Department lawyers urged a federal judge to throw out a case brought by a gay couple married in California.

"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," the president said in a written statement. "This brief makes clear, however, that my administration believes that the act is discriminatory and should be repealed by Congress."

That did not satisfy leaders of the gay rights community.

"It is not enough to disavow this discriminatory law, and then wait for Congress or the courts to act," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "While they contend that is the (Department of Justice's) duty to defend an act of Congress, we contend that it is the administration's duty to defend every citizen from discrimination."

In his presidential campaign, Obama had strong backing from the gay community because of his promise to press for repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The law, passed by Congress in 1996, denies federal recognition of same-sex marriages, thereby banning federal spousal benefits to those in such unions. It also allows states that prohibit same-sex marriages to deny recognition of such unions granted in other states.

The Justice Department Monday stressed the administration has not changed its views on the law.

"The Justice Department cannot pick and choose which federal laws it will defend based on any one administration's policy preferences," said department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler. "The government's filing makes clear that the administration believes the Defense of Marriage Act is discriminatory and should be repealed."

The case challenging the law was brought by Californians Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer.

The government argues their case should be dismissed in part because they have no legal standing to bring the challenge.

"The plaintiffs have not shown that any other state has refused to recognize their California marriage, and they do not allege ... they have applied for and been denied any federal benefits" because of the law, the government said.

Federal courts to date have upheld the law, and said it is subject to "rational basis review."

In defending the existing law, the government argues, "This court should find that Congress could reasonably have concluded that there is a legitimate government interest in maintaining the status quo regarding the distribution of federal benefits in the face of serious and fluid policy differences in and and among the states. That there is now a debate taking place in this country about same-sex marriage does not make Congress's belief in this regard any less rational."

soundoff (77 Responses)
  1. Shelby

    Obama made promises to all of us, i.e. Health care, two wars etc...... No one group can take credit for getting him elected, it was everybody. So guess what? He has to do whats best for the entire country not just one group!

    August 17, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  2. brs

    the problem in this debate is god. if you'd leave the mythology out of it and gays wanting to marry without the gov't getting involved is really just libertarianism

    August 17, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  3. NicknAtlanta

    To "vote" for whether or not someone has the right or not to do something that everyone else on the planet already has the right to do, is DISCRIMINATION. PERIOD. No questions asked. Obama says he believes that the DOMA is discriminatory yet he upholds it at every given opportunity...can you say hypocrite??!!??

    August 17, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  4. tony

    I want to marry my dog, cousin, daughter, son. It is my right to do this, I think the president should speak out and let me do that. IT IS MY RIGHT!

    August 17, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  5. once upon a horse

    there are many on the right that are against big goverment or goverment involvement so why should they feel it's ok to get involved in people's personal lives. If two people of the same sex want to get married I feel it's their own business.

    August 17, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  6. Deuce

    You want a Trade-War? I will trade you word, for word. Pity America don't know English. Or is that "doesn't????

    August 17, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  7. Gays--get it through your heads.....

    OBAMA IS AGAINST GAY MARRIAGE.....he only favors gay unions......

    Stop trying to make believe he is on your side.....

    August 17, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  8. Commen Sense Reality Check

    Isn't the Defense of Marriage Act protecting the RIGHTS of married couples – one man, one woman? How can that be discriminatory if is it protecting our rights as a married couple?

    August 17, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  9. DLHanna

    Christians shouldn't be able to comment on gay marriage until they can tell me why poligamy is illegal in the U.S. but ok with God.

    August 17, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  10. Hetrosexual For Gay Marriage

    Let Gay people Marry. At least they are faithful to each other. It is their life, and they have better family values than some of the hypocrites in hetrosexual Marriages.

    August 17, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  11. Jay

    Prop 8 barely passed here in CA. Trust and believe it will be brought up again. I'm a heterosexual churchgoer and I think it's okay for gays to marry. I CAN NOT judge one for what they do behind closed doors. I CAN NOT judge the next person who wants to have the same rights as a married heterosexual couple. During his campaign, President Obama said he believe marrigae should be between a man and a women, so for him to recognize that the law states you can not discriminate, is a start.

    August 17, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  12. Chipster

    It's amazing how many reasons people can find to hate others and most offensive when they use God as an excuse for their hatred, fear, and prejudice.

    If you truly believe the Bible, then you must believe that the judgments you make on others will be the judgment you will receive.

    This law should be repealed and should be judged as unconstitutional for its discrimination. States do not have the right to discriminate. The Constitution is supreme in the defense of equal protection.

    August 17, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  13. inofritzn

    This is what happens when a president attempts to please everyone. Just do what you really believe and stop trying to have it both ways Obama.

    August 17, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  14. MatthewDetroit

    Have your civil union and get over yourself.

    August 17, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  15. Reformed Republican

    The DOJ needs to file a law suit making obstructionist, lying and fear mongering Texas congressmen and their lobbyist mouth pieces (ala the "Dick" Armey types) illegal as well....

    August 17, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  16. Claudia in Houson

    I don't care. I'm not gay and have no plans to get married to anybody gay. But if you are a closet gay then you might care.

    August 17, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  17. once upon a horse

    you know not very long ago it was illegal in some states for two people of different races to marry, less known the same sex. Another reason it's too bad McCain/Palin didn't win last year. I'm sure they were really big on gay marraige..you betcha

    August 17, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  18. I love you all

    On the subject of Gay and Lesbian marriage; I love people no matter what their preference is. I do however make it very clear to all those who are homosexual and are my friends and family. That I can not support what they are doing as it is a sin, however like the sins of me and all my friends and family. I love the sinner but hate their sin.

    If more people could find ways to love one another instead of finding ways to attack one another we would be in a much better place. Unfortunately people think they do not need others and do not need God, hence the downfall of our world.

    August 17, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  19. MatthewDetroit

    Keep blaming the Republicans all you want.
    You idiots have 60 senators and a majority of congress.
    The only thing not giving the gay maniacals more rights than anyone else is that even their own party thinks they are nuts.
    Get over it and get over yourself.
    You dont believe in marriage so dont have one.
    Go have a civil union and get over yourself.
    You still get all the benefits without the terminology.
    There are bigger things to handle like the Presidents absolute similiarity to Chavez and the plight of socialism.

    August 17, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  20. OldUncleTom

    Sometime soon (I hope), our President is going to have to "OWN" some of his policies. We didn't vote for him to tell us that everything is up to Congress. We can be certain that he will not hesitate to grab credit for the successes.

    You can't have it both ways, Mr President.

    August 17, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  21. donttreadonme

    Gays can get married anytime they want. What they are really looking for is acceptance! Acceptance doesn’t come from the courts and the Government.
    It is also foolish to think that majority of those who oppose do so for religious reasons. That is a convenient excuse, admit it people you don’t want to institutionalize this alternative lifestyle. You do not want it preached to your children, you don’t want it to become an affirmative action issue and you do not want them suing to become boy scout leaders.

    August 17, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  22. vette gal

    I just don't get it! Why do gay people have to be married? They say it is because they want equal rights. Well, they get equal rights under a civil union. Why can't they be satisfied with that? A typical case of the smith's wanting what the jones' have. I have several lesbian friends who are very satisfied with the civil unions. They tell me it gives them all the rights of a married couple. So..let it drop already. Marriage is just a word. Sad really when there are so many other more important things our country should be worrying about and fighting for.

    August 17, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  23. I love you all

    All of this stems from people thinking they do nto need God, they do not like what a religion has to say they start another or say this is 2009 we do not need God. We DO need God and I am fearful for those who think otherwise.

    There is nothing is science NOTHING that can be explained without God. Because no matter how smart we get we still can not explain what triggered anything. There is a God and our time is coming, just as the world has gotten to the brink before and then brought back. We will again.

    August 17, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
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