The Obama administration has prevailed in its attempt to dismiss a challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Los Angeles Times reported.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge David O. Carter agreed with Assistant Attorney General Tony West, who argued that the Orange County gay couple married before Proposition 8 banned gay marriage in California had not been harmed by DOMA because they had not applied for federal benefits.

West claimed Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer of Mission Viejo had not suffered because of the 1996 law, which defines marriage as a heterosexual union for federal agencies and allows states to ignore legal gay marriages performed outside their borders.

Carter's seven-page decision said the case lacked “an injury in fact,” but also left the door open for another filing when he said the suit had been improperly filed in state court. A California superior court judge had dismissed the couple's challenge on the grounds that their marriage is legal in the state.

The administration's first brief in Smelt v. United States said the law did not discriminate against gay and lesbian couples and was laced with archaic anti-gay arguments, angering gay leaders and activists.

Arguments in a second filing, however, were cushioned with a statement that called the law unfair: “With respects to the merits, this Administration does not support DOMA as a matter of policy, believes that it is discriminatory, and supports its repeal.”

The flip angered conservatives, who called Obama's defense of DOMA less than “optimal.”

The Christian-based Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), which as intervenor in Smelt is also defending DOMA, promoted the argument that there is a government interest in “responsible procreation.”

An argument Department of Justice lawyers took a swipe at in their brief, saying: “... the United States does not believe that DOMA is rationally related to any legitimate government interests in procreation and child-rearing and is therefore not relying upon any such interests to defend DOMA's constitutionality.”

“It is very disappointing that the [Justice Department] has rejected the idea that kids do best in homes with a married mother and father,” ADF attorney Brian Raum told Baptist Press.

“They've taken the precarious decision of defending DOMA while at the same time claiming that it's bad policy … [I]t is certainly not optimal for the attorney who is defending a particular law to concede that their clients believe it's bad policy. I think that's detrimental to the case,” he added.

While the second brief did not include the original arguments that angered gay activists, they remained part of the case, having not been withdrawn or altered.

A second, considered more viable, federal challenge to Proposition 8 – and ultimately DOMA – has also been filed in California and is being argued by the legal team of Ted Olson and David Boies. The judge in the case has scheduled a January 11, 2010 trial date in the case.