Monday, July 4, 2011

Evolve Already! Justice Dept. Files Anti-DOMA Brief in Lesbian Spousal Benefits Case

In less than a week, there have been three separate cases challenging the Defense of  Marriage Act (DOMA) and Obama's Department of Justice has been all over the place in the way it has faced each one.

Last Thursday I told you about an immigration case involving Henry Velandia, who is from Venezuela, who legally married his husband Josh Vandiver in Connecticut in 2010. Velandia was fighting deportation when the judge decided to put the case on hold, pending clarification of the DoJ's infamous DOMA Brief, in which the president and Attorney General expressed their belief that the law is, at least in part, unconstitutional.

The judge dropped the case against Velandia on Wednesday. The DoJ has pretty much stayed out of the case and John "Snooki" Boehner's Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), which was formed to defend DOMA challenges on behalf of congress, was nowhere to be seen.

Next we heard about the federal bankruptcy case where a judge found that a lower court decision that kept a legally married gay couple from jointly filing for Chapter 13 because of DOMA, violated the 14th amendment's guarantee of the right to due process. The appellate judge in the case used the same reasoning that the DoJ used to reach it's decision.

In this case, the government's appointed trustee filed an appeal, citing the DOMA Brief, which says the administration is legally bound  to enforce DOMA until it is legislatively repealed.

So, just to be clear, the Justice Department won't defend DOMA in court, but they will enforce it. What's the difference?

To muddy the waters even more, the DoJ filed a brief on Friday in support of a lesbian couple who are suing the federal government for spousal benefits. The Huffington Post reports:
In a strongly worded legal brief, the Obama administration has said the federal act that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman was motivated by hostility toward gays and lesbians and is unconstitutional.
The brief was filed Friday in federal court in San Francisco in support of a lesbian federal employee's lawsuit claiming the government wrongly denied health coverage to her same-sex spouse.
The Justice Department says Karen Golinski's suit should not be dismissed because the law under which her spouse was denied benefits – the Defense of Marriage Act – violates the constitution's guarantee of equal protection.
The brief is the strongest legal statement yet from the administration in court. It says, in part, "The official legislative record makes plain that DOMA Section 3 was motivated in large part by animus toward gay and lesbian individuals and their intimate relationships, and Congress identified no other interest that is materially advanced by Section 3."

This is the first test case for Snooki Boehner's BLAG. Maybe that's why the DoJ is being more aggressive in it's anti-DOMA approach this time. The gays only deserve equality in cases where it's politically advantageous to the administration. To put it simply, AG Holder's strategy seems to be, "No BLAG, No Fag".

There are currently nine pending cases challenging DOMA in court. Will BLAG defend them all? It looks like they simply can't right now. With congress so focused on the debate over raising the debt ceiling, job creation, and re-election, social issues are taking a back seat. New York's passage of Marriage Equality garnered no major response from the Republicans, with the possible exception of a few hardcore religious conservatives, who have been largely shut out by the party in recent years.

Given the enormous public outcry at Boehner's decision to spend $500k on a private attorney to defend DOMA when so many American's are out of work, coupled with the rapidly changing attitudes toward marriage equality, which 53% of Americans now support, engaging in blatant gay-bashing is not a political tool the GOP can use any more to turn out their base. It only makes them look like bullies in the school yard.

Here we are on July 4th, 2011 celebrating 235 years of freedom and independence. The American people, including Republicans, are finally starting to figure out that "all men are created equal" means us too. Mr President, the Independence Day parade is passing you by. Evolve already!!

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