Bowing to intense political pressure from the gay community, the White House has softened its support for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
The Justice Department (DOJ) has now gone on record expressing the Obama administration’s support for repeal of the statute, Politico news service reports.
That pronouncement came in a brief for a lawsuit challenging DOMA’s legality. The stance was conspicuously absent from a controversial legal filing DOJ made in June.
President Obama has said that as a Christian, he can’t support gay marriage.
In a statement Monday about the latest DOJ brief, he said it “makes clear that my Administration believes that the Act is discriminatory and should be repealed by Congress. I have long held that DOMA prevents LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) couples from being granted equal rights and benefits.
“While we work with Congress to repeal DOMA, my Administration will continue to examine and implement measures that will help extend rights and benefits to LGBT couples under existing law."
As for the Justice Department, its brief reads: "This Administration does not support DOMA as a matter of policy, believes that it is discriminatory, and supports its repeal."
"Consistent with the rule of law, however, the Department of Justice 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."
Obama is clearly trying to walk a fine line: keeping the gay community on his side, while seeking to avoid alienating those opposed to gay marriage.
His effort may be futile.
"The administration listened to our concerns and removed some of the offensive approaches," Jenny Pizer, a lawyer for gay-rights group Lambda Legal, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
But she said the government "continues to argue that anti-gay discrimination does not deserve serious constitutional scrutiny."
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