WASHINGTON (BP)--With homosexual activist groups up in arms over President Obama's inaction on key issues important to their community, the White House is repeating its commitment to changing federal law so that every state could be forced to recognize the "gay marriages" of an individual state.
John Berry, the highest ranking homosexual person in the Obama administration, told The Advocate magazine's online edition in a June 14 article that the president remains committed to overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a 1996 law signed by President Clinton that prevents the federal government from recognizing "gay marriage" and gives states the option of not recognizing "gay marriages" from other states, such as Massachusetts.
Obama campaigned on a pledge to the homosexual community that he supported overturning the law -- a pledge that was placed on the White House website on Jan. 20 when he took office but has since been pulled. Homosexual groups griped when the website was scrubbed but were outraged last week when Obama's Justice Department filed a brief with a federal court defending the Defense of Marriage Act.
The brief said that a suit filed by two homosexual men who were "married" in California should be dismissed.
"[I]t was reasonable and rational for Congress to maintain its longstanding policy of fostering this traditional and universally-recognized form of marriage," it said. The brief further said that states traditionally have been given leeway not to recognize, for instance, marriages between cousins or an uncle and niece.
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest homosexual activist organization, took the rare step of releasing a public statement criticizing the White House. HRC President Joe Solmonese said he could not "overstate the pain" caused by "implying that our own marriages have no more constitutional standing than incestuous ones." He called on Obama to introduce a bill in Congress overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean called the brief "really offensive" and argued that Obama likely didn't know it was coming. The New York Times' editorial board also chimed in, saying, "The administration needs a new direction on gay rights."
Additionally, two prominent homosexual leaders -- David Mixner and Andy Towle -- have pulled out of a Democratic National Committee Fundraiser that is scheduled to feature Vice President Biden June 25, Politico.com reported. Both men cited the Defense of Marriage Act brief as the reason.
Berry, though, said that while the White House wants to see the law overturned legislatively, it had an obligation to defend it in court.
"This president took a solemn oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States and he does not get to decide and choose which laws he enforces," Berry told The Advocate. "He has to enforce the laws that have been enacted appropriately and that he has inherited. It would be wrong for me or any of our community to advise him to lie or to shirk his responsibility.
" ... He has made clear that he stands for the repeal of DOMA. It will be part of this administrationís agenda to accomplish that act. We ought not waste energy and angst attacking him when we should be focusing the energy and effort on getting 218 votes in the House and 60 votes in the Senate, and thatís where we ought to target the energy and the strength of this community and this president is with us, this is our agenda and itís his agenda."
Obama has walked a tightrope on the issue since the early stages of his presidential campaign. He appeased his most conservative supporters by saying he opposed "gay marriage," then tipped his hat to his homosexual supporters by opposing DOMA. He was the first major presidential nominee to oppose DOMA and told The Advocate in April 2008, "I support the complete repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act."
Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel -- a religious liberty legal group -- and dean of the Liberty University School of Law in Virginia, said Obama's positions cannot logically be reconciled.
"[I]t's disingenuous for Barack Obama to campaign that he wants to repeal the federal DOMA and then on the other hand say that he's in favor of marriage between a man and a woman," Staver told Baptist Press. "By repealing DOMA, you are favoring same-sex marriage being forced upon the other states."
The law passed in 1996 in the House, 342-67, and in the Senate, 85-14, when Republicans led both chambers. But Democrats have since taken power, and several Democratic congressional leaders -- including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- favor repealing the law. House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers told the Michigan Messenger website that he had the votes in his committee to overturn the law, although he said it's a "different question" in the full House and Senate.
Supporters of the Defense of Marriage Act argue that it is the last layer of protection preventing "gay marriage" from being legalized nationally. Repealing DOMA even could impact those 29 states that have passed constitutional amendments specifically prohibiting "gay marriage," Staver said. Although a state marriage amendment provides protection from a state court ruling, it does not provide any protection from federal courts.
The text of the law states that "no state Ö shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other state Ö respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage."
"If the federal Defense of Marriage Act were repealed by Congress," Staver said, "that would unleash the floodwaters of same-sex marriage to inundate the rest of the country -- despite the fact that they have state constitution marriage amendments.... [W]e would lose the specific protection of the statutory enactment of DOMA that would give autonomy to the states. That would pose a serious threat to unleashing same-sex marriage across the country."
The lawsuit in question was filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer and is different from one filed recently in federal court by two high-profile attorneys, Ted Olson and David Boies. It's also different from one filed by a prominent homosexual legal group, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). The GLAD suit seeks only to overturn the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that prevents federal recognition of "gay marriage."
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. To read how "gay marriage" impacts parental rights and religious freedom click here.