The Obama administration on Thursday
appealed two federal cases that found portions of the federal Defense
of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro ruled
in July against the 1996 law that defines marriage as a heterosexual
union for federal agencies and allows states to ignore the legal
marriages of gay couples performed outside their borders.
Tauro's decision only considers the
law's definition of marriage, which prohibits married gay and lesbian
couples from accessing federal benefits such as Social Security. He
ruled the law violates the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection
In its defense of the law, the
administration called DOMA “rational” because states have yet to
adopt uniform rules on gay marriage.
“DOMA is supported by rationales that
constitute a sufficient rational basis for the law,” DOJ lawyers
wrote in their filing. “For example … it is supported by an
interest in maintaining the status quo and uniformity on the federal
level, and preserving room for the development of policy in the
Joe Solmonese, president of the Human
Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest gay rights advocate,
disagreed with the filing.
“The Administration claims that it
has a duty to defend the laws that are on the books, despite the
President's public statements denouncing DOMA as discriminatory,”
Solmonese said in a statement. “We disagree. At the very least,
the Justice Department can and should acknowledge that the law is
And Solmonese called on the president
to support marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples.
“It's time for him to help lead the
American public toward full equality for all Americans. We ask him
to fully recognize the dignity of LGBT Americans and their families
by supporting marriage equality.”
Obama supports recognizing gay couples
with civil unions, but he
recently said that he is “evolving” on marriage.
Both challenges were filed in
Massachusetts, the first U.S. state to legalize gay marriage. One
was filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and the
other by several gay couples being represented by the Boston-based
gay rights group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).
“DOMA is an unjust and
unconstitutional law that discriminates against Massachusetts married
couples and their families,” Coakley said in a statement last year.