Friday, July 09, 2010

Obama administration walks tricky political line on gay marriage ban

"By ruling Thursday that the Defense of Marriage Act – which bars the federal government from recognizing gay marriage – is unconstitutional, US District Court Judge Joseph Tauro has also shined a spotlight on how the Obama administration is working at cross-purposes on the law."

Linda Feldmann reports:

President Obama has called the law known as DOMA “abhorrent” and pledged to overturn it. But his Justice Department has defended the law’s constitutionality in court – and is expected to appeal Judge Tauro’s ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

“While we expect the department to continue to defend DOMA on appeal, we urge the Obama administration to push Congress to repeal a law that we know, and Judge Tauro recognized, serves no purpose but to denigrate our families,” the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay rights organization, said in a statement.

Ruling in two cases, the judge found that DOMA encroaches on Massachusetts’ right to grant benefits to same-sex married couples that are already afforded to heterosexual couples.

In one case, brought by state Attorney General Martha Coakley, the judge found that the 1996 law forces Massachusetts to discriminate against some of its own citizens – gay married couples – in order to receive federal money for programs such as Medicaid. Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2004.

“This court has determined that it is clearly within the authority of the commonwealth to recognize same-sex marriages among its residents, and to afford those individuals in same-sex marriages any benefits, rights, and privileges to which they are entitled by virtue of their marital status,” Tauro wrote. “The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state.”

In the other case, brought by Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the judge said the law violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution. READ MORE

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