US President Barack Obama’s administration has acknowledged that the Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA) is discriminatory against the LGBT community and supports its repeal but, bizarrely, will continue to defend it in court.
In a statement on the lawsuit filed by a gay couple in California, who are challenging the federal law, Obama said: “…my Administration believes that the Act is discriminatory and should be repealed by Congress.”
However, despite this statement, the Department of Justice said in a brief to the court yesterday that it “has long followed the practice of defending federal statutes as long as reasonable arguments can be made in support of their constitutionality, even if the Department disagrees with a particular statute as a policy matter, as it does here.”
DOMA prevents couples in states that recognise same-sex unions from securing Social Security spousal benefits, filing joint taxes and benefiting from other federal rights connected to marriage.
Obama said that he will seek to repeal DOMA in Congress while defending the law in court.
Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler explained that despite the Administration’s opposition to the law, it is obligated “to defend federal statutes when they are challenged in court. The Justice Department cannot pick and choose which federal laws it will defend based on any one administration’s policy preferences”.
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, responded in a statement that, “It is not enough to disavow this discriminatory law, and then wait for Congress or the courts to act. While they contend that it is the DOJ’s duty to defend an act of Congress, we contend that it is the administration’s duty to defend every citizen from discrimination”.