Ryan J. Reilly
January 13, 2011
The Justice Department on Thursday filed a motion justifying the Defense of Marriage Act in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, appealing a federal judge’s decision that the part of DOMA which defines marriage as between a man and a woman is unconstitutional.
But the appeal makes clear that the Obama administration doesn’t support DOMA, and that the Justice Department was simply following tradition in defending even those laws the executive branch disagrees with.
“Indeed, the President supports repeal of DOMA and has taken the position that Congress should extend federal benefits to individuals in same-sex marriages,” DOJ writes in the appeal. “But a consensus behind that approach has not yet developed, and Congress could properly take notice of the divergent views regarding same-sex marriage across the states.”
“The Department of Justice has long followed the practice of defending federal statutes as long as reasonable arguments can be made in support of their constitutionality, even if the Administration disagrees with a particular statute as a policy matter, as it does here,” government lawyers write. “This longstanding and bipartisan tradition accords the respect appropriately due to a coequal branch of government and helps ensure that the Executive Branch will faithfully defend laws with which an Administration may disagree on policy grounds.”