(San Francisco, CA, June 12, 2009)—We are very surprised and deeply disappointed in the manner in which the Obama administration has defended the so-called Defense of Marriage Act against Smelt v. United States, a lawsuit brought in federal court in California by a married same-sex couple asking the federal government to treat them equally with respect to federal protections and benefits. The administration is using many of the same flawed legal arguments that
the Bush administration used. These arguments rightly have been rejected by several state supreme courts as legally unsound and obviously discriminatory.
We disagree with many of the administration’s arguments, for example that DOMA is a valid exercise of Congress’s power, is consistent with Equal Protection or Due Process principles, and does not impinge upon rights that are recognized as fundamental.
We are also extremely disturbed by a new and nonsensical argument the administration has advanced suggesting that the federal government needs to be “neutral” with regard to its treatment of married same-sex couples in order to ensure that federal tax money collected from across the country not be used to assist same-sex couples duly married by their home states. There is nothing “neutral” about the federal government’s discriminatory denial of fair treatment to married same-sex couples: DOMA wrongly bars the federal government from providing any of the over one thousand federal protections to the many thousands of couples who marry in six states. This notion of “neutrality” ignores the fact that while married same-sex couples pay their full share of income and social security taxes, they are prevented by DOMA from receiving the corresponding same benefits that married heterosexual taxpayers receive. It is the married same-sex couples, not heterosexuals in other parts of the country, who are financially and personally damaged in significant ways by DOMA. For the Obama administration to suggest otherwise simply departs from both mathematical and legal reality.
When President Obama was courting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters, he said that he believed that DOMA should be repealed. We ask him to live up to his emphatic campaign promises, to stop making false and damaging legal arguments, and immediately to introduce a bill to repeal DOMA and ensure that every married couple in America has the same access to federal protections.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education. www.NCLRights.org.
Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work. http://www.lambdalegal.org/
The American Civil Liberties Union is America’s foremost advocate of individual rights. It fights discrimination and moves public opinion on LGBTQ rights through the courts, legislatures and public education. http://www.aclu.org/
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBTQ citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all. http://www.hrc.org/
Since 1978, GLAD has been pursuing equal justice under law throughout New England, with enormous success. Our legal
victories have changed the landscape of the law regarding sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression. But more importantly, they have made a difference in the day-to-day lives of countless individuals. http://www.glad.org/
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force founded in 1974 as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Inc., works to build the grassroots political power of the LGBTQ community to win complete equality. We do this through direct and grassroots lobbying to defeat anti-LGBTQ ballot initiatives and legislation and pass pro-LGBTQ legislation and other measures. We also analyze and report on the positions of candidates for public office on issues of importance to the LGBTQ community. The Task Force Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) non-profit corporation incorporated in New York. Contributions to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action Fund are not tax deductible. http://www.thetaskforce.org/