Even before yesterday's announcement
that gay rights activists were suing the federal government to
recognize legal gay marriages, social conservatives had already begun
a preemptive effort to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act
Alarmed at the election of a
gay-affirming president, the conservative group Alliance for Marriage
Foundation (AMF) launched its defense in December.
At the AMF sponsored website
the group touts the benefits of the law that forbids any federal
agency from recognizing legal gay marriage. DOMA also allows states
to ignore legal gay marriages performed in another state.
And social conservatives quickly
reacted to the news of the new lawsuit.
“[I]t is increasingly clear that DOMA
is in the cross hairs of groups like Gay & Lesbian Advocates and
Defenders (GLAD), the plaintiffs, but also of President Obama who
repeatedly has stated his support for DOMA's total repeal,” Family
Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins said in a statement.
“We even wonder if his Department of
Justice will rigorously defend this federal law in this litigation.”
“We advise the Obama Administration
to fulfill its constitutional duties and defend DOMA energetically
and competently. We also urge any federal courts that hear this case
to dismiss it and preserve the right of the people to decide such
important public policy decisions,” Perkins continued.
GLAD, the Boston-based gay rights
advocacy group at the center of the gay marriage debate in New
England, filed the lawsuit in federal court on behalf of eight gay
couples and three surviving spouses who married in Massachusetts and
say they have been denied benefits because the federal government
does not recognize their marriage. Including Dean Hara, the widower
of former U.S. Rep. Gerry Studds, the first openly gay member of
Congress, who was denied the Congressman's pension and other benefits
extended to surviving spouses.
In 2003, GLAD successfully sued
Massachusetts to become the first state to offer gay marriage. It
duplicated that success last year in Connecticut. Only Massachusetts
and Connecticut offer full marriage to gay and lesbian couples.
Several other states, including New York, Vermont and New Jersey, are
considering extending marriage to gay couples.
Mary Bonauto, chief litigator at GLAD,
said the suit would focus narrowly on several key provisions of DOMA:
Social Security, federal income tax, federal employees and retirees,
and the issuance of passports. And said she believes the suit will
likely reach the Supreme Court.
Today, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry
said he supported the effort.
“The courts have always been the last
resort for those seeking justice under the law, and I'm proud that
GLAD has taken action to right a wrong that passed the Senate over
the objections of both of Massachusetts' senators,” Kerry, a
Democrat, said in a statement.
Kerry called DOMA “unconstitutional”
and “has absolutely nothing to do with defending marriage.”
Which was exactly what Perkins argued:
“DOMA is necessary, as is a Federal Marriage Amendment, to ensure a
solid future for traditional marriage in this country and the
well-being of our children.”