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 "This brief makes clear, however, that my administration believes that the act is discriminatory and should be repealed by Congress."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filing makes clear that the administration believes the Defense of Marriage Act is discriminatory and should be repealed."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. Mark,B'ham,Al.

    With the hate crimes laws being pushed by the gay and lesbian community when your minister quotes the Bible that homosexuality is a sin you liberal wingnuts will try and have all the church members arrested. You are treading on my freedom of religion when you want to take a word from religion and associate it with a sin. I am for Civil Unions inwhich you have all the rights of marriage but do not call it marriage. I would rather the relationship of marriage with my wife be called a civil union by the government and a marriage by the church.

    August 17, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  2. Search no more

    Marriage between a man and a woman is worth standing up for. The founding fathers (like so many Americans) can't believe we are having to fight to preserve this honorable union.

    Let us first realize, that God unites a man and woman, according to his holy word. No matter what men and women may or may not do... Heaven declares the handiwork of God.. man and woman in his perfect design.

    God's best for everyone.

    August 17, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  3. Dennis

    If gay marriage is OK, shouldn't polygamy be OK as well?

    August 17, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  4. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Good start. Now let's get rid of another attack on the civil liberties of American citizens, the so-called "PATRIOT" Act.

    And then, when that's done, it will be time for the insanely discriminatory Federal income tax to go too.

    August 17, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  5. Lee

    "There is a new American Dictionary came out today.

    President? Idiot…"

    And right next to it is a picture of George W. Bush.

    August 17, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  6. Pick a side!

    Mr. President, as one of your biggest supporters I have to say ... I'm fed up with your waffling on the gay issue. Please pick a side and stick to it so we can decide how much we want to work for you in 2010. If I had to decide today, it wouldn't be much. You are better than this - turn it around. Thank you.

    August 17, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |

    Obama Socialistic Republic of Non-America never does anything that the majority wants just what his private agenda wants and to please the minorities.
    Obama you need to remember the people elected you so you MUST provide for them, so playing the minority card all the time and not working for the majority will haunt you in the future.

    August 17, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  8. AJ

    Obama is a disgusting human being who would be singing a different tune if the issue was discrimination against blacks. Once again, Obama has proven he cannot be trusted,

    August 17, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  9. cph9680

    And hypocrisy becomes the word of the day.

    Good job, BO

    August 17, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  10. annie s

    Fundamentalists confuse me. They want us to practice discrimination, wage war, maintain the death penalty, let the poor fend for themselves, ignore the need for everyone to have access to health care – and they do all of this in the name of Jesus. Someone please tell me how these people are any better than the Iranian religious fanatics?

    August 17, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  11. Emmanuel Goldstein

    Obama has made it clear that he would not overturn the federal ban on recognizing state gay marriages, but that he would effectively gut DOMA by recognizing gay marriages for tax purposes, social security, federal worker benefits, etc.

    In the end, the only thing left of DOMA will be the ink on the paper and no meaningful effects. This way, the One gets to have it both ways and declare victory on both sides.

    August 17, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  12. demwit

    No worries. Obamorons will clearly accept anything Obama reads gracefully from his teleprompter.

    August 17, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  13. Jake

    Mr. President, it is time for you to stand up for us.

    We stood up for you and helped get you what?

    August 17, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  14. Sniffit

    Read the brief they filed or shut up.

    August 17, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  15. RealityKing

    Obama will definitely support gay marriage again.., in 2012.

    August 17, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  16. Johnny DC

    How is this still a Republican problem? This isn't the GOP's fault, morons. You have a large majority in both houses of legislation and the White House. If you wanted this law repealed, it would be repealed.

    The Democrats only tease the LGBT community to gain their votes come election time, then abandon them. That's how they do.

    And we're the evil party, right? Takes one to know one, Democrats.

    August 17, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  17. Paul from Phoenix

    That is some pretty good double-talk by Obama on this one.

    Personally, I could care less about this issue. WHat people do in their own home is their business. I know plenty of straight people who shouldn't be married or have kids.

    However, the word marriage holds a very important meaning for the vast majority of the country. Even though I am in favor of gays being afforded all the same marriage rights as a straight couple, this is a fight not worth having, in the sense of the word "marriage."

    I think the term "Union," with all rights bestowed a married couple included, should be the way to go. It is a fair compromise. Besides, gay people, including friends of mine, are very happy pointing out that they are different. Therefore, create a term that is different, but the same.

    This isn't about being politically correct, it is about compromising an solving the issue that has been a thorn in America's side for way too long.

    August 17, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  18. demwit

    Hey! Didn't I see these guys at one of those tea-bagger parties!??

    Oh wiat....

    August 17, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  19. Libertarian

    STOP STOP STOP putting religion into Gov't. I'm soooo tired of hearing that our Gov't has to stand up to support God. NO THE CHURCH is there to support your religion NOT the Gov't. It seems if you want the laws to reflect the Old Testament we'd have Taliban-like law here. For so many of your "christians" that live by the bible...most of you would be have to be beheaded, stoned to death, or have your hands cut off. I'm sure if the law came to THAT you'd all be offended that the Gov't was getting into your business.

    If YOUR church doesn't believe in Gay Marriage fine. If someone elses church does....great. Last I heard FREEDOM of religion WAS defined in the constitution. It makes no mention of governing by religion.

    August 17, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    "You are treading on my freedom of religion when you want to take a word from religion and associate it with a sin. "

    If you believe that, then you should also believe that when you take a word from religion and associate it with special treatment under the law, such as offering federal tax breaks by filing jointly, then you have explicitly violated the First Amendment for making a law
    "respecting religion" (and no, use of the word "respect" there has nothign to do with what Rodney Dangerfield was always complaining about). You can NOT have it both ways. It's either inherently religious and therefore anathema according to the Constitution's prohibitions or it's not and can stay, but must bow to the Constitutions requirements of equal treatment.

    August 17, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  21. Larry

    Who are you ????

    To tell another how or whom to love

    To tell another how or whom is allowed to pledge to one another for life

    Who are you ????

    I rest my case ...

    August 17, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  22. Is it 2013 yet?

    Today Obama said that he has some gay friends and he loves their lifestyle.

    Later tonight the coward in chief will say he was misquoted and he thinks gay s act stupidly and his true feelings are that he is against gay marriage (until next election).

    Chris Matthews and Katie Couric will gush at how open minded this President is and how easily he can listen to and be persuaded by a great argument.

    In 2012 the gays will vote for this fraud again.

    One and done, experiment brutally failed.

    August 17, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  23. Failure is a Republican

    I love it when the Right Wing religious nuts come out and claim that Gay Marriage is wrong and how the Bible is against it.

    It shows just how LITTLE they have read the Bible.

    I bet none of these religious nutjobs know that there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in the Bible about TWO WOMEN laying together/married being bad or God being against it. This is because the Bible was written by MEN and it focuses only on men retaining the power over everything including the home.

    Heck, the Bible says it is ok for people to OWN SLAVES and for men to have MISTRESSES. But do you see the right wing nutjobs clamoring to bring back slavery and allow married men to have a mistress? NO! Because they know the Bible is WRONG in many cases and they pick and choose from the Bible what they think they can get away with pushing.

    When it comes to religion in this county being IGNORANT and not using your mind is a prerequisite anymore to be a member of a religion. 🙁

    August 17, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  24. Joseph

    Those of you who are advocating more Government interaction into Gay Marriage are a bunch of HIppocrates. Heaven forbid the government offers a public option for healthcare. Oh no that is "socialist" and big government.

    Yet when the government tries to tell someone who they can and cannot sleep with then how is this any different? If you don't want the government in your life then you have to be for Gay Marriage for the simple fact that THE GOVERNMENT IS TELLING YOU WHAT YOU CAN AND CANNOT DO.

    For those that say this is "immoral" or a sin... Get religion out of the argument. I thought we are supposed to have separation of church and state and are free to practice whatever religion we want? Or did that too get taken away by the Patriot act after 9/11???

    August 17, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
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