The Obama administration has repeatedly promised to the homosexualists that it would work to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), but its Justice Department is defending DOMA against a Massachusetts lawsuit, blaming Congress for DOMA.
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-- From "Marriage battleground shifts to Massachusetts" by Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer 12/1/09
On one side are gay and lesbian couples who can't file joint tax returns, receive their partners' Social Security benefits or enjoy other rights that the government grants to opposite-sex spouses. They are joined by the state of Massachusetts, which says it is being forced by federal law to become an accomplice to discrimination.
On the other side is the Obama administration, which says the law it is defending is wrongheaded but constitutional.
The 1996 statute, the Defense of Marriage Act, prohibits the federal government from granting marital benefits to same-sex couples. Another provision, not challenged in the Massachusetts case, allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages legally performed in another state or nation.
The administration "believes that (the law) is discriminatory and supports its repeal," the Justice Department told the judge at U.S. District Court in Boston, where it will be decided if the case can proceed. But the Justice Department also said it will defend any federal law "as long as reasonable arguments can be made in support of its constitutionality." In this case, the department said, Congress was legally entitled "to provide benefits only to those who have historically been permitted to marry."
The Obama administration offered the same defense this year in answer to a California lawsuit that challenged the law, but that defense was never tested in court. Instead, a federal judge in Orange County dismissed the suit in August on the grounds that the plaintiffs, a gay couple, had previously filed suit in state court, which lacked jurisdiction.
The Massachusetts case is different. Assembled by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the group that won the 2003 case legalizing same-sex marriage in the state, and a battery of private lawyers, the suit features couples who have sought various federal spousal benefits - tax breaks, Social Security payments, employee health coverage - and have been turned down because of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Stanford law Professor Jane Schacter said both sides in the case have presented tightly focused arguments that steer the courts away from issues of gay rights and same-sex marriage, and toward state-federal relations and the scope of government authority.
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Read about bill (click here) in Congress to repeal Defense of Marriage Act.