I’ve been trying to think of a plausible spin to put on President Obama’s Justice Department’s recent brief upholding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The best I can do (to the extent that I understand the legalese) is to believe he felt this particular case wouldn’t fly—he preferred to wait for one strong enough to be used to get rid of the gay-discriminatory legislation.
In fact, legitimate reasons existed for the Justice Department to dismiss the first gay marriage case filed in federal court: Plaintiffs Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer already were married legally in California. But the wording of the brief went far beyond what could have been seen as a clever strategy to wait for a more solid, arguable case. Instead, it portrayed same-sex couples and GLBT families as near noncitizens.
Wording of the brief stated in part that because all 50 states recognize heterosexual marriage, “It was reasonable and rational for Congress to maintain its longstanding policy of fostering this traditional and universally-recognized form of marriage.”
Ironically, Obama’s own parents could not have been married in numerous states of the union when he was born, back when the “universally-recognized form of marriage” did not automatically include mixed-race partners.
Adding further insult to the brief’s injury to loving same-sex and family-rearing couples was the analogy that sanctioned gay marriage would be akin to incest, citing an earlier uncle-niece case.
All in all, I have found no rationale to make this repugnant document remotely palatable to GLBT individuals.
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese’s letter to Obama (see pages 26-27) fully expresses my sentiments—and those of many others in the GLBT community.
Having declared June to be “LGBT Pride Month,” Obama also added limited gay partner benefits to federal employees, “where possible under existing law”—i.e., under the overshadowing cloud of DOMA, which bars married same-sex partners from the 1,100-some benefits available to heterosexual couples.
Obama was quoted in the June 17 Washington Blade as saying, “Many of our government’s hard-working, dedicated, and patriotic public servants have long been denied basic rights that their colleagues enjoy for one simple reason—the people that they love are of the same sex.” True, but that statement doesn’t square with the hateful words used in the brief concerning Smelt and Hammer, or the limits on the new partner’s benefits.
The June 22 New York Times reported that Obama has invited a number of gay activists to the White House on June 29 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Rebellion. Stalwarts, or a group of second-class incestuous rebels? Something’s badly out of kilter here.
I echo Solmonese’s words to Obama—“this brief should not be good enough for you”—and his question to him: “Do you believe that it’s good enough for us?”