It seems that President Obama’s Department of Justice is just livid over the Washington Post’s Plum Line blog, and its earlier article about how Obama’s DOJ and OPM refused to work with gay legal groups who were trying to find a way to work around DOMA in order to give federal employees health and other benefits. DOJ is reportedly claiming that Plum Line’s story is wrong.
The story is of course damaging to President Obama since this week he held an Oval Office ceremony in which he signed a memo directing federal agencies to prepare a list of possible benefits they might be able to give the partners of gay federal employees. Not included in that list is health benefits, because the administration claims that Obama wanted to include them, but DOMA precludes them. If, in fact, President Obama’s OPM and DOJ have been actively working to thwart the efforts of gay legal groups to figure out how to provide such benefits under the law, then that would make President Obama out to be a bit of a liar, wouldn’t it.
The Plum Line’s story is seriously damaging to an administration already reeling from a gay donor boycott, and the overall PR disaster that comes when you accuse an entire civil rights community of being akin to incest and pedophilia. So DOJ needs to fight back in order to be able to tell the power gays around the country on Monday’s DNC call, and in next week’s meeting with gay groups, that the Plum Line’s story has been disproven.
The thing is, it hasn’t.
Let me walk you again through what the Plum Line wrote, and then through what the administration’s on the record response has been.
Plum Line quotes GLAD attorney Gary Buseck:
“We thought it would be a good idea to sit down with top folks at Justice to talk about this [DOMA] lawsuit and what it meant and to engage in more cooperative lawyering,” Buseck tells me. “They told us that they didn’t want to meet with us.” The government’s response in the case is due later this month, and gay rights activists are watching closely to see if it’s similar to the one in the California case that’s generating so much controversy.
Plum Line quotes Lambda Legal’s Jennifer Pizer:
“We have communicated through a couple of different channels asking [OPM] to provide legal analysis to support their position,” Ms. Pizer told me. “We said, `At a minimum, give us your legal analysis so we can engage with you.’ The response was, `No, we’re not changing our position.’ That’s not what we expect from an administration whose leader speaks so emphatically about thinking discrimination is wrong.”
So, we have two gay lawyers saying that in the past several months both DOJ and OPM refused to work with those groups, to sit down with them, to give them their legal arguments for why they thought DOMA prohibited these benefits. In a nutshell, the Obama administration wasn’t interested in helping gay civil rights groups find a legal way to provide health care benefits to gay federal employees.
What does DOJ have to say about this? They say they’ve now scheduled a meeting with the big gay groups for next week, to discuss the community’s concerns.
Having a meeting NEXT WEEK does not, however, deny having IN THE PAST FIVE MONTHS refused GLAD’s and Lambda Legal’s earlier requests to work with you in an effort to provide gay federal employees benefits such as health care. You haven’t proven a story wrong when you give a statement that doesn’t address the story’s key allegations.