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

US asks court to toss challenge to gay marriage law

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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 "This brief makes clear, however, that my administration believes that the act is discriminatory and should be repealed by Congress."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filing makes clear that the administration believes the Defense of Marriage Act is discriminatory and should be repealed."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. Leon

    Tha ball is in Obama's court, gay marriage, abortion, dictatorship and so on.

    August 17, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  2. S Callahan

    It's pretty sad when even those in government can not committ to one viewpoint for the benifit of the Nation they represent. There is accountablity in all you do....eventually.

    August 17, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  3. Typical Republican

    Hey...we need to run this country like the Taliban does. We will decide who a person can marry, and eventually tell the women they can only be seen in public with a male relative or spouse. It's that simple, we want to DICTATE to you who you can and can not marry!

    Republicans values, the true values. No freedoms in the bedroom, or in your church. We'll tell you what your church can believe in!

    August 17, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  4. Mississippi Mike

    Bring it on Barack! The majority of Americans, even Californians, support traditional marriage. Every time Obama opens his mouth it's clear how radical he is. Americans don't like radicals, what does that mean for Obama's political future?

    August 17, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  5. Dennis

    He was against it until he was for it.

    August 17, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  6. Deuce

    There is a new American Dictionary came out today.

    President? Idiot...

    August 17, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  7. Iqbaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal

    Even in a developing but well built and educated nation like Pakistan, sane laws prevent same sex relationships ... why in the world should an advanced nation like ours EVEN CONSIDER such things????

    Allah clearly says marriage is between a man and a woman even if polygamy is ok....

    this is absurd – nobama is indecisive ... he won't last for another term!

    August 17, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  8. Fed UP

    Nobama won't even show up with a coherent thought that is actually his own. No to gay marriage period.........................

    August 17, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  9. Joe Six

    Hey, if Obama's Justice Department can throw out a case against Philadelphia Black Panthers after they were convicted, why does Obama's Justice Department need to defend DOMA?

    August 17, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  10. donttreadonme

    This law doesn’t ban “gay marriage” it gives states the right to decide independently of the Federal Government. The fact that the liberal gay movement would seek to overrule the will of the people by use of the Federal Courts comes as no surprise.

    August 17, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  11. Typical Democrat

    I am for whatever Obama wants because he is just so dreamy.

    August 17, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  12. Nate P, MN

    What a disgrace! The United Stated of America was founded on equal rights for all! Sure there were slaves way back when, but now blacks have equal rights. Now the GLBT community is in the spotlight. What does gay marriage have to do with traditional marriage? Do gay people come to your house and cause trouble? Do gay couples protest your marriages? Absolutely not! Live and let live. If you don't feel that homosexual marriage fits with your religious beliefs, remember that religion is between YOU and YOUR god. You have no say in somebody else's life.

    If you want to believe fairy tales about resurrection and original sin (LOL) go ahead and believe that crap. Do you think Noah actually fit two of every animal on the planet on the ark? Do you believe in burning bushes that talk? Do you believe that someone can be swallowed by a whale and still live without stomach acids killing him? Do you think that god would actually be worried about the Tower of Babel and that people might reach the heavens? It's ridiculous what Christians believe. They believe the most crazy stories, but still think that gay people have a choice in their attractions? LOL

    August 17, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  13. Allen, Cypress, Texas

    I'm heterosexual, buy I believe that "The Defense of Marriage Act" is unconstituional. It is discriminatory in its nature and that's what our constitution tried to eliminate or minimize. It was a Republican ploy to satisfy their religious right – wing nuts who feels that their sexuality is so threatened by the gays and lesbians that they believe, they have to codifiy their "FEAR" into law and make the rest of us suffer it too. It should be repealed now along with the, "DON' T ASK, DON' T TELL"

    August 17, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  14. Anna Maria

    Yay! Let every man live how they choose! Good job Obama!

    August 17, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  15. Roberto

    i can't believe what I read here. It is not o.k to support gay marriage but it is o.k to be straight and cheat on your wife. Look around all the republicans.....found in restrooms, preachers sleeping with prostitutes, etc. so that is o.k....traditional marriage ha.

    August 17, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  16. wbn

    The presdient is right in noting that the legislative branch of government handle this issue. The law was passed legally by the people. Courts do not need to make judgments on laws with reference to the courts' opinions, but only with respect to the legality of the law. And, by the way, EVERYTHING is not a "right."

    August 17, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  17. Bedtime for Obonzo

    I guess Barry thinks that if he keeps talking out of both sides of his mouth, then everyone will be happy with his peformance.

    August 17, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  18. Melissa

    It is time for sexual orientation to be added as a protected status in the Constitution via a Constitutional Ammendment. No human being should ever face such rampant discrimination just for being human.

    August 17, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  19. Chandler

    The administration is completely right. It IS discrimination to not allow same sex couples the benefits and rights and family protections that come with marriage. However, the law as it stands is the law. An act of Congress should not be overturned at whim, even if it is the desire of the President.

    August 17, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  20. Randolph Carter

    "Even in a developing but well built and educated nation like Pakistan, sane laws prevent same sex relationships … why in the world should an advanced nation like ours EVEN CONSIDER such things????"

    Why in the world would an advanced nation like ours care what two consenting adults do in private? Have a nice day!

    August 17, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  21. John, Brooklyn, New York

    From failure to be clear on DOMA, to failure to dismantle Don't Ask Don't Tell, to inviting hate-mongerer Rick Warren to deliver his inaugural invocation, Mr. Obama has clearly demonstrated that protecting the civil rights of ALL Americans is NOT a priority.

    For now, gay Americans may not have another party alternative (for that matter, considering the current state of the GOP, who does?) but Mr. Obama and the Democrats will feel the pinch when they want our dollars or our feet on the street in 2010 and 2012.

    August 17, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  22. Jimmy

    Boy, republicans are all against government intrusion until it comes to marriage – then they feel free to intrude whenever they want. The charletons in the gop want to decide who can and cannot marry. Hypocrits and jokers.

    If gay marriage is a threat to traditional marriages, you've got problems.

    August 17, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  23. TCM

    Again, Obama pandering the fringe minority....Obama said he believed marriage was one man and one, he's waffling again. If I were a liberal, I'd never believe anything he says..

    August 17, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  24. phoenix86

    In other words, Obama says one thing and does another.

    Pretty much sums up this disaster of a presidency.

    August 17, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  25. single mom

    In other words, he's covering all his bases, trying to keep everyone happy, and getting everyone angry at him in the process.
    The President is not having a good first summer on a number of issues.

    August 17, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
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