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Obama Administration Declares Federal Defense of Marriage Act “Discriminatory”

Published August 18, 2009

The Obama administration Justice Department drew criticism from LGBT groups in June when it moved for the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The administration’s argument for dismissal is based on the premise that DOMA remains law until repealed by Congress, and as law must be defended by the justice department. DOMA, passed in 1996, bans federal recognition of samesex marriage even if state law recognizes the union, and has wide-ranging effects on GLBT couples engaging in estate planning and tax planning.

This week, the administration declared in a brief that the act is discriminatory and should be repealed by Congress, although the Justice Department will still offer a reluctant defense of the act. The brief intends only to clarify the official stance of the administration in favor of repeal of the act.

Assistant Attorney General Tony West wrote, in the brief filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, “This administration does not support DOMA as a matter of policy, believes that it is discriminatory and supports its repeal. Consistent with the rule of law, however, the Department of Justice has long followed the practice of defending federal statutes as long as reasonable arguments can be made in support of their constitutionality.”

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