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Obama’s Defense of DOMA: Political or Principled?

I asked NRO’s Andy McCarthy what to make of this story on the Obama DOJ defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court, even though President Obama is against DOMA. The DOJ responded by saying that they are  just “defending the statute, as it traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged.” An excerpt from the piece:

The Obama administration decided on Tuesday to appeal a judge’s rulings that prevented the U.S. government from banning same-sex marriages, a move that could undermine support among President Barack Obama’s traditional liberal base ahead of a key election.

The Obama administration filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in support of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, that barred gay marriages, even though Obama had previously opposed the law.

Although Obama opposes the law, a Justice Department spokeswoman said that the administration was defending the statute because it was obligated to defend federal laws when challenged in court.

“As a policy matter, the President has made clear that he believes DOMA is discriminatory and should be repealed,” said Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler. “The Justice Department is defending the statute, as it traditionally does when acts of Congress are challenged.”

And here’s Andy’s response:

Purely political.

 

Last time Eric Holder ran DOJ (1999 or thereabouts), I tried to get DOJ to defend a statute, Section 3501 of the penal code, by which Congress (in around 1969) had attempted to reverse the Supreme Court’s Miranda decision. I argued that the statute was presumptive constitutional, there was a strong argument that it was constitutional, and therefore DOJ had a duty to defend it. But for the Reno/Holder DOJ, and the Clinton admin at large Miranda was a sacred cow. So all the hooey about DOJ’s traditional role of defending acts of Congress went out the window — the Department actually jumped into the case on the side of a felon who had committed bank robbery in order to defend Miranda, and the Supreme Court had to appoint special counsel to take the law-enforcement position.

Heckuva job, Mr. President: playing politics with your base and voting “present” on one of their most important issues.

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