Obama places minority status, federal benefits at heart of anti-DOMA brief
WASHINGTON, D.C., February 25, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Completing the turn against traditional marriage he began more than two years ago, President Barack Obama filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to strike down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The administration has placed access to taxpayer-subsidized benefits and tax breaks – as well as its belief the homosexuals deserve a special place as an underprivileged minority group – at the heart of its legal argument.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli filed the amicus curiae brief urging the court to declare Section 3 of DOMA unconstitutional on multiple grounds, including an alleged violation of equal protection under the law.
The 54-page document also claims the justices must give greater deference to homosexuals, because “gay and lesbian people are a minority group with limited political power.”
The decision acknowledges that voters in three states – Maine, Maryland, and Washington – democratically approved marriage redefinition and six additional states redefined the institution at the legislative level of through judicial fiat. However, it counts 36 additional states that have passed laws or state constitutional amendments preserving marriage as an institution between one man and one woman since 1996.
That lack of electoral success, the Obama administration argues, proves that the Supreme Court should short-circuit the popular will.
DOMA, the brief states, is “the rare case in which deference to the democratic process must give way to the fundamental constitutional command of equal treatment under law,” decreed from the federal bench.
The administration also places access to federal subsidies and tax breaks at the heart of its case. “The law denies to tens of thousands of same-sex couples who are legally married under state law an array of important federal benefits that are available to legally married opposite-sex couples,” the brief states.
The protagonist in the case United States v. Windsor, Edith Windsor, is a New Yorker who “married” her lesbian partner in Canada. She is suing because she must pay $363,000 in estate taxes that would not be owed by a married couple. President Obama has argued in favor of increasing the estate tax.
The same-sex “marriage” argument turns largely, not around equal process but giving homosexuals access to government welfare benefits and tax incentives originally designed for stay-at-home mothers. Some believe, like 20-year-old Tufts University junior Grianne Griffiths, believe that “turning the conversation to [federal] benefits is crucial in changing public consciousness.”
Others believe there is no discrimination in allowing states to set their own definition of marriage, and for the federal government to establish the definition of marriage for its own purposes.
The Justice Department brief states the law, passed before a single state legalized homosexual “marriage,” “targets” homosexual couples considered married under state law. This constitutes “a harsh form of discrimination that...does not substantially advance an interest in protecting marriage, or any other important interest.”
The Family Research Council disagrees, citing a growing body of research from its own social scientists and other scholars showing that an intact traditional family may be the greatest means of reducing child poverty, dropout rates, physical abuse, mental illness, and unemployment.
“Redefining marriage would have massive economic implications,” an FRC spokesman stated. “Only an administration blinded by its extreme social agenda would fail to recognize that.”
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“Obama’s radical policies will undermine marriage and morality and ultimately will harm children and society,” agreed Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel.
The Obama administration entered the legal brief on Friday, known to politicians as “the Friday news dump,” a time that produces little media exposure for an unpopular action.
Obama has not yet determined whether he will file an amicus brief in the companion case over California's Proposition 8, a state constitutional amendment protecting marriage. He has until February 28 to file such a document.
"If they decide to enter the case, their brief will probably be the most important before the court," said Richard Socarides, Bill Clinton's liaison on homosexual affairs. "The position of the government on how it thinks we should treat our citizens - what could be more important?"
Obama may have signaled reticence over the weekend, saying, “I have to make sure that I'm not interjecting myself too much in this process, particularly when we're not a party to the case.”
However, he is certain to have a substantial impact on the outcome. He appointed two of the justices who will decide on the case – Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
In February 2011, Obama took the unusual step of announcing he would no longer defend DOMA in court. The Justice Department began lobbying for the law, signed by President Bill Clinton, to be overturned that June.
His appointees have been outspoken on Proposition 8, as well. Obama named defrocked Methodist minister Harry Knox to the Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in 2009. Knox called faithful Catholics who supported Proposition 8 “foot soldiers of a discredited army of oppression.”
The president has also shown a penchant of enacting pro-homosexual policies by executive order. “Where government has historically denied things like same-sex partner benefits for federal workers or military personnel, the Obama administration has just ignored the law and awarded them anyway,” noted an FRC spokesman.
The brief seems to admit it is on shaky legal standing, stating the government's position would fall apart if the High Court uses the typical standard for evaluating laws.
“The government has concluded that heightened scrutiny governs classifications based on sexual orientation and that DOMA Section 3 cannot be sustained under that standard. If the Court disagrees and applies rational-basis review, the government has previously defended Section 3 under rational-basis review, and does not challenge the constitutionality of Section 3 under that highly deferential standard,” the brief states.