The Obama administration responded
Sunday to criticism of a Justice Department brief defending the
federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
an interview with Kerry Eleveld, gay monthly The Advocate's
Washington corresponded, posted on its website, John Berry, the
highest ranking openly gay official in the Obama administration,
responded to the LGBT community's growing frustration with the
Gay rights advocates were outraged
Friday on news the Obama administration was defending the 1996 law
that allows states to ignore legal marriage performed in other states
and defines marriage as a heterosexual union for federal agencies.
Bloggers called the move a broken promise, and took exception to the
brief's anti-gay tone.
Berry, who heads the Office of
Personnel Management, reiterated that the president is committed to
repeal of DOMA, but that the administration cannot cherry pick which
laws to defend, and promised repeal “before the sun sets on this
“This president took a solemn oath to
uphold the Constitution of the United States and he does not get to
decide and choose which laws he enforces. He has to enforce the laws
that have been enacted appropriately and that he has inherited.”
“[W]e want to repeal the Defense of
Marriage Act,” Berry added. “Now, I'm not going to pledge –
nor is the president – that this is going to be done by some
certain date. The pledge and the promise is that this will be done
before the sun sets on this administration.”
Berry also spoke of a broader gay and
lesbian legislative agenda that includes passage of the Hate Crimes
bill, repeal of “don't ask, don't tell” – the law that bans
open gay military service – and ENDA, the gay employment
But bloggers immediately pounced on the
convolutions of Berry's remarks.
For instance, John Aravosis at
called Berry's insistence that the administration must defend DOMA a
“That's a flat out lie,” Aravosis
said. “The president can ask DOJ [Department of Justice] to oppose
laws in cases where there are important political and social issues
at stake. Period.”
Berry also contradicts himself when he
first says the administration is hopeful the Hate Crimes bill
currently before the Senate will pass this week, but later adds “We
don't have the votes to do Hate Crimes right now.”
Aravosis seized on these points,
concluding that the administration, at best, has pushed back the
legislative gay trifecta of ENDA passage and repeal of “don't ask,
don't tell” and DOMA into the president's second term.
“[T]he White House knows it has to do
damage control,” Pam Spaulding said in a blog post at
“something it has seemed to think it was above when it came to
thumbing its nose at the LGBT community. You are being listened to.
Probably still dismissed, but they know they have to do something.
So far, just not the right thing.”