Book: Obama Told Advisers to Find 'Way Out' of Defending DOMA

Image: Book: Obama Told Advisers to Find 'Way Out' of Defending DOMA

Friday, 18 Apr 2014 10:16 AM

By Sharon Churcher

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President Barack Obama ordered his top advisers to find "a way out" of defending the Defense of Marriage Act, a new book reveals.

Obama was "furious" when he learned that an obscure legal argument might lead to the Supreme Court striking down the act, according to "Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality." An advance copy of the book by Jo Becker was obtained by Politico, which published a summary.

The book is scheduled to arrive in bookstores on Tuesday.

The president demanded to know why his senior adviser Valerie Jarrett hadn’t "informed [him] ahead of time" that the argument – filed in a brief to the court – might make the act unconstitutional.

Attorney General Eric Holder was put in charge of frantic "deliberations over finding a way out."

The backstairs Justice Department effort intensified when a New York lesbian, Edie Windsor, filed a 2010 legal challenge to the act: "They were racing to get ahead of the Windsor case," according to the Politico summary of Becker's book.

Becker wrote that the head of the Justice Department’s civil division, Tony West, made an extraordinary phone call to Edie’s attorney, Robbie Kaplan, pleading with her to hold off on the case. "Please," Becker describes West telling Kaplan, "the attorney general of the United States is asking you for time."

Obama and Holder eventually concocted their "way out": they would argue that constitutionally, the burden was on the states to argue that there was government interest in preserving marriage as a right limited to heterosexuals.

There was one possible setback: "Becker describes internal worries about what might happen to Obamacare if Obama lost the 2012 election and a Republican administration decided to use its rationale" on marriage to justify backing away from the healthcare law, according to the Politico story.

Obama finally decided to take the risk. On Feb. 23, 2011, West called Edie’s lawyer to say the administration was planning to announce it was done defending DOMA.

"Remember when you said you would be praying?" Becker recounts West telling Kaplan. "Well, sometimes prayers work."

According to the New York Post, the book also exposes that Obama’s statement that he "personally" had decided to support gay marriage was in fact a "cold" political calculation.

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