August 17, 2009

Obama plays twister with gay marriage stance

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With a waving campaign hand, President Barack Obama beckoned to gay voters.  He promised to undo a Clinton-era law blinding the federal government to gay marriage and allowing states to ignore same-sex marriages sanctioned by their peer governments.

But with a presidential gesture, Obama has supported his Justice Department’s efforts to throw out a gay couple’s lawsuit challenging the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.

His administration’s lawyers argue that the Constitution sanctions preventing gay couples from securing the benefits usually accorded to married people, such as Social Security spousal benefits and filing joint taxes.  Doing otherwise wouldn’t be fair to taxpayers of the 30 states that specifically prohibit same-sex marriages, they say.

The San Francisco Chronicle published the article by Devlin Barrett of the Associated Press which quotes Obama’s statement and the papers his administration filed in a California court.

In them, Obama walks a tightrope between defending the law and offending his gay constituency.

The president said his administration’s stance in a California court case is not about defending traditional marriage, but is instead about defending traditional legal practice.

Department lawyers are defending the law “as it traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged,” Obama said in a statement.

“The United States does not believe that DOMA is rationally related to any legitimate government interests in procreation and child-rearing and is therefore not relying upon any such interests to defend DOMA’s constitutionality,” lawyers argued in the filing.

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