The Obama Administration Defends the Defense of Marriage Act

FindLaw
June 17, 2009
During the Presidential election campaign, Barack Obama announced his intention to sign legislation repealing DOMA. Yet in Smelt, his Justice Department vigorously defended DOMA last week, prompting LGBT rights groups to denounce the seeming change of heart. Did the government's brief in Smelt betray the President's campaign promise? The President arguably has a duty to defend the constitutionality of duly-enacted statutes. Still, the executive branch's defense of a federal statute invariably has a substantial policy element to it. The problem was not so much that the government defended DOMA, as it was the way in which the government did so. Although the government's Smelt brief does not flatly violate candidate Obama's promise to seek DOMA's repeal, the LGBT community is right to view it as a betrayal of the spirit of that promise. [Link]

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Video: Obama Extends Benefits for Same-Sex Partners

The Associated Press
June 17, 2009

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Eye Opener: Same-Sex Partners Get Benefits

The Washington Post
June 17, 2009
Happy Wednesday! President Obama will sign a memo today that extends some federal benefits to domestic partners of federal workers, including same-sex partners. The president will stop short, however, of pledging full health insurance coverage to those partners. In a conference call with reporters, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry said "This is a first step, not a final step. This is an attempt to get our federal house in order, and that is very important to do. It’s an example of practicing before preaching, and I believe the president is taking bold action to do just that, to get the federal house in order." [Link]

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Talks on Same-Sex Benefits Began Months Ago

The Washington Post
June 17, 2009
The seeds for a presidential memorandum President Obama plans to sign today that would extend federal employee benefits for same-sex couples were planted last December during a meeting with advocates and the Obama transition team. Over the course of 2 1/2 hours, representatives of several groups met with Valerie Jarrett, now one of the president's top White House advisers, and John Podesta, who along with Jarrett was a co-chair of the transition team, and discussed a range of issues important to gay and lesbian Americans. "It was a very serious meeting, talking about appointments, talking about positions, talking about legislation," recalled Leonard Hirsch, the president of Federal Globe, an organization representing gay and lesbian federal workers. That meeting led to today's planned announcement about benefits. [Link]

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Barney Frank rips prez’s ‘big mistake’

Boston Herald
June 17, 2009
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, one of the nation’s leading gay rights champions, blasted President Obama yesterday over a controversial anti-marriage equality court filing and is calling on the commander in chief to explain himself. “I think the administration made a big mistake. The wording they used was inappropriate,” Frank (D-Newton) said of a brief filed by Obama’s Department of Justice that supported the Defense of Marriage Act. “I’ve been in touch with the White House and I’m hoping the president will make clear these were not his views,” Frank said. [Link]

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Representative Tammy Baldwin Comments on DOJ DOMA Brief

Towleroad
June 16, 2009
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) released a statement today with regard to the brief. Said Baldwin, as part of longer remarks at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in observation and celebration of LGBT Pride Month:
Last week the Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of DOMA. I was profoundly disappointed by this action, particularly coming from this administration. I still take President Obama at his word that he is committed to the repeal of DOMA. I also recognize that he cannot do it alone. Congress has the responsibility on its shoulders to pass legislation that would give the opportunity to the President to keep his word and ensure that all married people, including those in same-sex marriages, enjoy the same rights under federal law.
[Link]

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The Gay Guide to Obama’s Remarks Today

Huffington Post
June 17, 2009

Lane Hudson highlights President Obama's promise to repeal the so-called 'Defense of Marriage Act' during his campaign and poses possible positive steps President Obama could make with his signing of a memorandum regarding domestic partner benefits for federal employees and expected remarks later today. (Link)

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Quigley Wants Same-Sex Couples Counted In Census

CBS 2 Chicago
June 16, 2009
Newly-elected U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) is calling on President Barack Obama to recognize same-sex married couples in the 2010 census. Quigley sent Obama a letter, reiterating a similar call last month. If same-sex married couples are not counted, the integrity of the census may be threatened, Quigley said. "My colleagues and I do not believe that simply reporting data about same-sex married couples in the 2010 Census is a recognition of same-sex marriage," Quigley wrote. "However, the omission, or "scrubbing" of the data from these couples will misidentify and misrepresent many people who are legally married in a growing number of states across our country." [Link]

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HRC criticizes Obama over DOMA brief

Washington Blade
June 15, 2009
The Human Rights Campaign took President Obama to task following the release of a controversial Justice Department brief last week that defended the Defense of Marriage Act. In a letter sent to Obama on Monday, HRC President Joe Solmonese contests certain arguments made in the brief and urges the president to move to repeal DOMA, which prevents federal recognition of same-sex unions:

When a woman must choose between her job and caring for her spouse because they are not covered by the [Family Medical Leave Act], DOMA is not 'netural.' DOMA is not a 'neutral' policy to the thousands of bi-national same-sex couples who have to choose between family and country because they are considered strangers under our immigration laws. It is not a 'neutral' policy toward the minor child of a same-sex couple, who is denied thousands of dollars of surviving mother's or father's benefits because his parents are not 'spouses' under Social Security law. Exclusion is not neutrality. If we are equals, if you recognize that our families live the same, love the same, and contribute as much as yours, then ... we call on you to put your principles into action and send legislation repealing DOMA to Congress.

[Link]

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U.S. to Extend Its Job Benefits to Gay Partners

The New York Times
June 16, 2009
President Obama will sign a presidential memorandum on Wednesday to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees, administration officials said Tuesday evening, but he will stop short of pledging full health insurance coverage. Mr. Obama, in an Oval Office announcement, is expected to offer details about which benefits will be provided. It is the most significant statement he has made on gay issues, and it comes as he faces intense criticism from several gay rights leaders over what they suggest has been a failure to live up to campaign promises in the first months of his presidency. “Extending benefits to partners of gay federal employees is terrific, but at this point he is under enormous pressure from the gay civil rights community for having promised the moon and done nothing so far,” Richard Socarides, an adviser to the Clinton administration on gay issues, said Tuesday evening. “So more important now is what he says tomorrow about the future for gay people during his presidency.” [Link]

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