DOJ DOMA Brief: HRC Response
June 12, 2009
Regarding the Department of Justice's brief in a challenge to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, today the Human Rights Campaign released the statement below. HRC also is a signatory to a statement by a coalition of LGBT advocacy and legal organizations decrying the Obama administration's defense of DOMA.
Human Rights Campaign Statement on the Obama Administration’s Defense of the “Defense of Marriage Act” In the Smelt v. U.S. Case
“We call on the President to send legislation repealing DOMA to Congress,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, issued a statement today regarding the Obama Administration’s decision to defend the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act in a lawsuit filed on behalf of a gay couple who married in California. Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer, who were married in California on July 10, 2008, filed a suit in federal court in December challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Administration responded yesterday. “The Administration apparently determined that it had a duty to defend DOMA in the courts. The President has just as strong a duty to put his principles into action, and end discrimination against LGBT people and our families,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “We call on the President to send legislation repealing DOMA to Congress,” he added. Since taking office in January, President Obama has taken bold steps to deliver on principles and promises he articulated during his campaign. In just his first six months in office, President Obama has signed the Lily Ledbetter Act into law, paved the way for life-saving stem cell research, eliminated barriers to women’s health and reproductive care abroad, expanded insurance coverage for millions of children, ended the torture of detainees, and called for the notorious prison at Guantanamo Bay to be closed. However, this community is frustrated by the Administration’s silence, until today, on a critical matter that the President voiced support for during his campaign—repealing DOMA. “President Obama must see that this extraordinary record of commitment to the public good at last be extended to end discrimination against LGBT people,” said Solmonese. “Mr. President, you have called DOMA ‘abhorrent’ and pledged to be a fierce advocate for our community. As we approach the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, it is time for you to use your leadership to translate these principles into meaningful action.” HRC also has grave concerns about the arguments that the Administration put forth in this case, arguments that simply do not reflect the experiences that LGBT people face or the contributions that they make. The Administration’s brief claims 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. The brief further claims that DOMA is a “neutral” federal position on same-sex marriages, and permits the states to determine on their own whether to recognize same-sex marriages. The most alarming argument, grounded neither in fact nor in law, reads as follows:
[DOMA amounts to] a cautious policy of federal neutrality towards a new form of marriage. DOMA maintains federal policies that have long sought to promote the traditional and uniformly-recognized form of marriage, recognizes the right of each State to expand the traditional definition if it so chooses, but declines to obligate federal taxpayers in other States to subsidize a form of marriage that their own states do not recognize.
“Same-sex couples and their families are not seeking subsidies,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “We pay taxes equally, contribute to our communities equally, support each other equally, pay equally into Social Security, and participate equally in our democracy. Equal protection is not a handout. It is our right as citizens,” he said.