Ten U.S. senators who voted in favor of
the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) have chided a judge for saying the
law is based on animus toward gay men and lesbians.
DOMA is the 1996 law which bans the
federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of gay
The legislation is being challenged in
at least 12 cases.
his ruling declaring the law unconstitutional, U.S. District
Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco noted that debate over the bill
included some congressmen calling homosexuality “immoral”,
“depraved” and “unnatural.”
On Monday, 10 GOP senators filed an
curiae brief in support of the law, including Senators Orrin
Hatch of Utah, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Dan Coasts of Indiana,
Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Mike Crapo of Idaho,
Charles Grassley of Iowa, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mitch
McConnell of Kentucky and Richard Shelby of Alabama.
Hatch's inclusion is significant
because he chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee when DOMA was
The senators stated that courts are not
authorized to “strike down an otherwise constitutional law based on
the belief that legislators individually, or the Congress as a whole,
were motivated by 'animus.'”
“Judicial 'psychoanalysis' of
legislative motives, to use Justice Cardozo's phrase, is a highly
subjective exercise, which threatens needless friction between the
branches. Scouring the congressional record for 'sound-bites' to
divide and disparage the motives of individual legislators also
chills the freedom of legislative speech that is the hallmark of
robust democratic debate.”
The senators said that the law is the
result of a significant government interest, specifically to clarify
the federal definition of marriage.
Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which
has filed a separate legal challenge to the law as it relates to
members of the military, rejected the senators' claims.
“There is absolutely no national
interest in relegating gay and lesbian citizens to second class
status with the passage of the discriminatory Defense of Marriage
Act, and to say that no harm was intended to LGBT Americans is absurd
at best. At worst, it's a blatant and mean-spirited attempt to slow
down the progress we are making on securing the freedom to marry for
all Americans,” Sarvis said in a statement.