San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has
called a Justice Department brief defending the federal Defense of
Marriage Act (DOMA) a “big mistake.”
“I think it's a big mistake,”
Newsom, who was in Los Angeles for the city's annual Gay Pride
parade, told the Los Angeles Times.
The gay blogosphere erupted Friday on
news the Obama administration was defending the 1996 law that allows
states to ignore legal gay marriage performed in other states and
defines marriage as a heterosexual union for federal agencies.
Newsom is often credited with opening
gay marriage in California, a right lost last November with the
narrow passage of a constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage,
Proposition 8, and remains a strong advocate for granting gay and
lesbian couples the right to marry. Last month, the state Supreme
Court upheld the constitutionality of Proposition 8. Gay activists
have vowed to repeal the ban in 2010.
“I'm concerned about some of the
arguments being made by the Justice Department,” Los Angeles mayor
Antonio Villaraigosa said.
During the campaign Obama called the
law “abhorrent” and promised he would repeal the law.
“If elected, I would call on Congress
to enact legislation that would repeal DOMA and ensure that the over
1,100 federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the
basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil
unions and other legally recognized unions,” he told gay weekly The
The move angered gay groups and
bloggers who called it a broken promise, and took exception to the
brief's anti-gay tone. Prominent blogger John Arovosis called the
arguments “despicable, and gratuitously homophobic.”
“It reads as if it were written by
one of George Bush's top political appointees,” Arovosis said in a
post at AmericaBlog.com.
“Obama didn't just argue a technicality about the case, he argued
that DOMA is reasonable. That DOMA is constitutional. That DOMA
wasn't motivated by anti-gay animus.”
The White House said it was duty-bound
to enforce the laws of the land unless clearly unconstitutional.
“The President has said he wants to
see a legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act because it
prevents LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] couples from
being granted equal rights and benefits,” White House spokesman
Shin Inouye said.
“However, until Congress passes
legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to
defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system.”
The administration applies similar
logic on the subject of “don't ask, don't tell,” the 1993 law
that forbids open gay service in the military. The White House
insists the president is committed to repeal of the law and is
actively engaged in discussing the issue with top Pentagon brass, but
refuses to issue an executive order to end or suspend discharges. Meanwhile,
Pentagon officials say they are merely upholding the law.