Assistant AG wrongly asserts that DOJ is required to defend DADT and DOMA

One of the biggest issues the LGBT community has with the Obama administration is its continued defense of DOMA and DADT. Today, Tony West, the DOJ official who signs the briefs defending those laws, talked to journalists. Sure, they do it, but they don’t like doing it. Via TPM’s Ryan Reilly:

Assistant Attorney General Tony West of the Justice Department told reporters Monday that defending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act were “difficult” for the Obama administration.

“Those are difficult cases because as you know the administration has a long standing policy view on this — supports the repeal of DOMA and supports the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’,” West said in response to a question from TPM.

“Those are both congressional statues which require Congress to repeal them, they can’t be undone by executive order,” West said. “The Department of Justice, notwithstanding the administration policy view which is strongly held by us, has an institutional responsibility to defend the constitutionality of congressional statutes, whether we agree with them or not,” West added.

The Civil Division of the Justice Department, which defends the laws passed by Congress, has worked with the Civil Rights Division’s liaison to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community to make sure that future briefings don’t advance arguments that they would find offensive. President Barack Obama told liberal bloggers recently that his views on gay marriage could evolve.

The mere fact that this administration is defending DOMA and DADT in the courts is offensive.

We’ve been saying for a long time, DOJ doesn’t have to defend these laws. Of late, we’ve seen many others agree that the Obama administration does not have to defend DADT. See here, here and here. It doesn’t have to be this way, but that’s the course the Obama administration has chosen. Only the hard core apologists take the view that the administration has no options.

Note that you won’t hear the President or anyone in his administration say DOMA or DADT are unconstitutional, even though federal judges have ruled that both are unconstitutional. Nope.

In a couple months, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina will be heading to Chicago to manage the reelection campaign. He and his team are going to spend a lot of time explaining to the LGBT community why the Obama administration is fighting us in the courts — and how “difficult” it is for them. Messina better hope that the DADT language passes this year, which he said would happen. Because, it will be nearly impossible to assuage LGBT volunteers, donors and voters if Obama’s DOJ is defending DOMA and DADT all the way to the Supreme Court.


On October 27, 2010, Joe was one of five bloggers who interviewed President Obama. Joe is a DC-based political consultant with over twenty-five years of experience at both the state and federal level. Joe has managed political operations and legislative efforts for both candidates and issues-based organizations. For seven years, he was the Director of State Legislation at Handgun Control, Inc. He served as that organization's first Political Director during the 2000 cycle. Joe is a graduate of the University of Maine School of Law. In addition, he has a Masters in Public Administration from Lehigh University and received his B.A. from the University of New Hampshire. Joe also has a fun dog, Petey, a worthy successor to Boomer, who got Joe through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Joe likes to think he is a world class athlete having finished the 2005 Chicago Marathon in the time of 4:10. He has completed six other marathons as well -- and is still determined to break the four hour mark.

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