The Justice Department on Monday said the Obama administration does not support the 1996 federal law that bans same-sex marriage.
"This administration does not support DOMA as a matter of policy, believes that it is discriminatory, and supports its repeal."
This is the first time the Justice Department stated that it opposes the Defense of Marriage Act in a court brief.
But the statement was made in new papers filed Monday in a case to dismiss a lawsuit brought on by a gay couple who married in California last summer. Arthur Smelt and Christopher Hammer filed the lawsuit in December 2008, claiming that both Proposition 8 – California's constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman – and the federal DOMA violate the U.S. Constitution, specifically the Equal Protection Clause.
DOMA defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman for purposes of all federal laws, and provides that states need not recognize same-sex marriages from another state.
Obama again explained in a statement that lawyers for the Justice Department are defending the law, as the department is sworn to do.
"While we work with Congress to repeal DOMA, my Administration will continue to examine and implement measures that will help extend rights and benefits to LGBT couples under existing law," the president said.
The lawyers also explained, "Consistent with the rule of law, however, 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 Department disagrees with a particular statute as a policy matter, as it does here."
The statements come months after the Justice Department filed a motion to throw out the gay couple's lawsuit. The department's first filing angered gay rights advocates who accused the Obama administration of betrayal for defending DOMA.
In response, Obama said at a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month reception at the White House in June that he was still committed to reversing DOMA.
Obama's latest statement and the Justice Department's newest filing still haven’t completely appeased Joe Solmonese, president of the gay rights group Human Rights Campaign.
"It is not enough to disavow this discriminatory law, and then wait for Congress or the courts to act," Solmonese said, according to The Associated Press. "While they contend that it is the DOJ's duty to defend an act of Congress, we contend that it is the administration's duty to defend every citizen from discrimination."
Traditional marriage supporter Brian Raum, senior counsel of the Alliance Defense Fund, isn't surprised by the administration's opposition to the marriage law but calls it a tragedy.
“The administration stands against the vast majority of Americans who have voted decisively to protect marriage every time marriage is on the ballot,” Raum said. “Though it’s no surprise that the administration opposes DOMA, it’s a tragedy for America’s children that our leaders don’t believe that every kid has a right to both a mom and a dad.”