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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Obama hypocrisy on gay marriage

The New York Times nails President Obama and his Justice Department in an editorial today entitled "A Bad Call on Gay Rights." At issue is the administration's indefensible defense of the Defense of Marriage Act, an abomination that was signed into in 1996 law by President Bill Clinton, never a faithful friend of gay rights even in the best of times.

The basic facts, as the Times points out:

A gay couple married under California law is challenging the act in federal court. In its brief, the Justice Department argues that the couple lack legal standing to do so. It goes on to contend that even if they have standing, the case should be dismissed on the merits.

The brief insists it is reasonable for states to favor heterosexual marriages because they are the “traditional and universally recognized form of marriage.” In arguing that other states do not have to recognize same-sex marriages under the Constitution’s “full faith and credit” clause, the Justice Department cites decades-old cases ruling that states do not have to recognize marriages between cousins or an uncle and a niece.

The couple is Christopher Hammer and Arthur Smelt, who are pictured above.

An article a few days ago on sfgate.com explained the administration's position:

The Justice Department issued a statement saying Obama wants the law repealed "because it prevents LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) couples from being granted equal rights and benefits. However, until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system."

Now exactly why will the Obama Justice Department continue to defend the statute? Because it is on the books? By that logic, the Justice Department will also have to prosecute the Bush administration officials who authorized and carried out torture, because there are laws on the books against that too. Better yet, let's see Obama actually carry out his campaign promises to get the Defense of Marriage Act repealed. And meanwhile, how about if the Justice Department simply steps aside and let justice take its course?

3 comments:

Joanna said...

Obama keeps trying to signal that he knows he's moving too slow on these issues (did you see the joke about him, Axelrod & Iowa at the White House correspondents dinner? Not to mention the recent support for federal workers.)

I'm not claiming anyone is perfect, but these people have to deal with political realities & figure out how to best invest their political capital. Gay marriage is one of the few causes I support financially; I'm very ready to push for it to be higher priority. But so far I am impressed by the wide range of issues this administration is addressing, and what they've managed to achieve & get through. I'm not ready to call Obama a hypocrite yet.

Joanna said...

Actually, I take it back. I just saw that the briefing was a) not mandatory and b) made claims about incest etc. So it is indefensible.

http://www.americablog.com/2009/06/obama-justice-department-defends-doma.html

Michael Balter said...

Joanna, thanks for both of your comments. This stuff is hard. Obama is the best we have had so long that we need to have hope that he will do half he says he would--perhaps he already is. On the other hand, if we think that gay rights are based on equal protection and the Constitution then these things become a matter of principle, just as voting rights etc for Blacks was in the 1960s. Those who said they had to wait were wrong and had to give way (and that included a lot of liberals of the time.)