(Photo: Reuters / Jason Reed)
The Obama administration is sending mixed signals concerning gay marriage rights.
The U.S. Trustee’s office, a branch of the Department of Justice that oversees bankruptcy cases, has recently filed notice that it will appeal a June 13 federal bankruptcy court ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional – a ruling they initially agreed with.
But earlier this year, on February 23, President Obama and the DOJ had announced that they were no longer going to defend DOMA in court as they viewed it unconstitutional. Republicans and Christian groups criticized the move, saying Obama was disregarding his duty as president to defend federal law.
Following that announcement, several federal agencies have sought to undermine DOMA, a 1996 act that protects over 1,100 rights and benefits written into federal code regarding marriage. The IRS, for example, recently ruled that California's 1999 Registered Domestic Partnerships Law is equal to marriage when it comes to filing income taxes. Furthermore, Obama has released a statement allowing Medicaid to cover same-sex couples. Under DOMA, both of these provisions would be illegal. DOMA requires the federal government to only recognize those marriages between one man and one woman.
“The duplicity is perplexing,” said Bruce Hausknecht, a judicial analyst for CitizenLink, a Focus on the Family affiliate.
“What appears counterintuitive to many,” says Hausknecht, according to CItizenLink, “is that the DOJ is now signaling that DOMA – a law it disagrees with, remember – should be applicable when deciding the meaning of other federal laws in administrative-type hearings such as bankruptcy and immigration.”
The bankruptcy case involves a male couple who filed for a joint bankruptcy protection in California as a married couple. Despite previous claims that the DOJ would not defend DOMA, the U.S. Trustee’s office requested that the court dismiss the case. It claimed that the Obama administration required them to defend the law until a repeal was finalized by Congress. Under DOMA, the court cannot recognize the gay couple’s marriage.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Thomas B. Donovan disagreed and ruled earlier this month that DOMA violated the equal protection rights of the two men. “In this court’s judgment, no legally married couple should be entitled to fewer bankruptcy rights than any other legally married couple,” the judge wrote.
DOMA’s goals, which was signed by President Clinton, include “encouraging responsible procreation and child-bearing,” “defending and nurturing traditional heterosexual marriage,” “defending traditional notions of morality,” and “preserving scarce resources” according to Congressional proponents and the WSJ.