Mayors of LA and SF blast Obama over DOMA hate brief

The article includes a newish statement from the White House about why they submitted the hate brief supporting DOMA

White House spokesman Shin Inouye said the Justice Department, in submitting the brief, was following its normal practice of defending a law on the books in court.

“The President has said he wants to see a legislative repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act because it prevents LGBT couples from being granted equal rights and benefits,” Inouye said of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples.

“However, until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system.”

As we now know, that’s not entirely true. Yes, the “normal” practice in run of the mill, boring, insignificant, politically non-sensitive court cases, like a property dispute or some argument over the tax code, would in fact not rise to the level of something that would convince the President to have the Justice Department oppose existing law.

But guess what? Civil rights are not the lowly legal equivalent of some guy suing the government for seizing his backyard in order to build a highway. And we shouldn’t have to be educating the nation’s first African-American president about that fact. As former special adviser to President Clinton, Richard Socarides, wrote earlier today on this blog:

I was equally troubled by the administration’s explanation that they had no choice but to defend the law. As an attorney and as someone who was directly involved in giving advice on such matters to another president (as a Special Assistant for civil rights to President Bill Clinton), I know that this is untrue….

From my experience, in a case where, as here, there are important political and social issues at stake, the president’s relationship with the Justice Department should work like this: The president makes a policy decision first and then the very talented DOJ lawyers figure out how to apply it to actual cases. If the lawyers cannot figure out how to defend a statute and stay consistent with the president’s policy decision, the policy decision should always win out.

Thus, the general rule that the DOJ must defend laws against attack is relative – like everything in Washington.

What the Obama White House is saying is that they find a violation of our civil rights to be a normal, run of the mill thing. It doesn’t deserve the president’s special attention, it doesn’t deserve to be included in the existing exceptions that permit the White House to oppose existing law if the social or political issue is important enough to the president. As a reader wrote the other day, Obama’s just not that into us anymore.

One final point: Did you notice how in the past few months the White House has pivoted from promising to help us secure our civil rights, to now simply saying that they support us getting our civil rights, some day, somehow, if somebody else actually does the work? No longer are we getting promises by the president to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell or DOMA. We now get assurance that if Congress ever gets to repealing DADT and DOMA, the powerless president of the free world will stand up and applaud. If. No mention of any help. No mention of any timeline. No mention of the fact that he could issue a stop-loss order right now ending the discharges. No mention of the fact that Congress has nothing to do with a Democratic president issuing one of the most disgusting legal documents in the history of civil rights.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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