Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Department of Justice Makes History... very very quietly.

via Lambda Legal - On Friday, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a brief strongly arguing that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional in a case brought by Lambda Legal and Morrison & Foerster LLP on behalf of Karen Golinski, a lesbian federal court employee denied medical coverage for her wife, whom she married when same-sex couples could do so in California.

The DOJ had previously announced they would no longer defend DOMA, but this is the first legal filing in the country in which they have fully argued to a court that DOMA is unconstitutional. They asked the federal court not to dismiss Golinski's claim.

First of all, this is very good news. The Obama Administration has finally actually and demonstrably evolved. This administration has gone from defending DOMA , to saying they wouldn't defend DOMA, but would keep enforcing it, to not defending it, and selectively not enforcing parts of it, to last Friday's legal brief. Which for the first time argues forcefully that DOMA , or least section 3, (the part of it that bars federal recognition of same sex marriages), is unconstitutional and cannot stand.

“Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act … unconstitutionally discriminates,” the brief states. “It treats married same-sex couples who are legally married under their states’ laws differently than similarly situated opposite-sex couples, denying them the status, recognition and significant federal benefits otherwise available to married persons.”

The Justice Department contends LGBT people are a suspect class, or a group likely subject to differential treatment, because they’ve been subject to a history of discrimination, they exhibit immutable characteristics, and they’re minorities with limited political power. Additionally, the brief contends sexual orientation bears no relation to a person’s ability to contribute to society.

Wow... This is a big deal right? I bet the national media coverage of this has the wing nuts of America's right wing going crazy.... Well, not so much.

As it happens there wasn't any national media coverage of this. News of the brief was not even posted on the Department of Justice web site. The brief was filed on late Friday night, before then 4th of July holiday weekend, pretty much guaranteeing any news of it would get buried and missed by the White House press corps.
This, at the end of a week where  President Obama hosted  LGBT activists to mark the anniversary of the  Stonewall riots in New York.  One might have thought  the President would have shared news of this  historic shift in Administration policy there, in  a room full of representatives of a key segment of the  Democratic base  that  has become  increasingly  frustrated by  President Obama's reluctance to take any firm steps in the direction of supporting  Marriage  Equality.
Nope... not  a word.   It is as if the entire process was done to  attract no attention, or as little as possible.   
Here is the full brief:

I suppose  moving from  being  indifferent to  being a "closeted supporter" of  Marriage Equality, is step in  the right direction.   Albeit  one done quietly on tip toes....

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