Obama administration lawyers filed a legal briefing on Monday that defends the so-called ‘Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA),’ though the brief notes that the administration finds the policy “discriminatory.” The filing challenges a lawsuit by Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer (Smelt v. United States), who charge that the act is unconstitutional.
President Obama was scrutinized by LGBT rights advocates last June after a similar briefing was filed and in which Department of Justice lawyers linked marriage for same-sex couples to incest and pedophilia.
The Associated Press writes in an article published Monday that the President claims his decision to defend DOMA “is not about defending traditional marriage, but is instead about defending traditional legal practice.” President Obama maintains that he intends to repeal DOMA, but insists that the repeal come by way of Congressional legislation rather than court rulings.
Though Monday’s brief is a marked improvement from the June filing, LGBT organizations remain cautious in their praise.
Lambda Legal and other LGBT groups had serious conversations with the administration after the first brief was filed and we appreciate the progress made since then. But, clearly, serious conversation must continue.
But perhaps one of the more remarkable facets of the filing is the DOJ’s declaration that DOMA is in no way a federal tool meant to “protect” children, as some anti-LGBT groups insist:
The United States does not believe that DOMA is rationally related to any legitimate government interests in procreation and child-rearing and is therefore not relying upon any such interests to defend DOMA’s constitutionality.
Indeed, as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) applauded in a statement released on Monday, the filing even “repudiates the argument that sexual orientation has anything to do with the ability to parent”:
Since DOMA was enacted, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American Medical Association, and the Child Welfare League of America have issued policies opposing restrictions on lesbian and gay parenting because they concluded, based on numerous studies, that children raised by gay and lesbian parents are as likely to be well-adjusted as children raised by heterosexual parents.
Blogger Chris Geidner reflected on the significance of the DOJ briefing in regards to LGBT parenting on his blog LawDork.net:
The U.S. Department of Justice took a strong stand today for LGBT equality in at least one portion of its brief in Smelt v. United States, the portion related to LGBT parenting.
Geidner makes an interesting point in wondering if the DOJ briefing will now hold any leverage in future court rulings about LGBT adoption, for instance. Florida’s Supreme Court will hear one such case later this month in which a gay couple is fighting for adoption rights and Geidner asserts that “the DOJ statements certainly will be included in briefing for the likely appeal before Florida’s Supreme Court.”
GLAAD will continue to monitor the media’s coverage of developments surrounding DOMA.