Late Thursday, U.S. Department of Justice lawyers filed a motion to dismiss a case that challenged the 1996 Federal Defense of Marriage Act often referred to as DOMA. DOMA currently prevents couples in states that recognize same-sex unions from securing Social Security spousal benefits, filing joint taxes, and other federal rights of marriage. Justice Department lawyers concluded that allowing federal marriage benefits to gays would infringe on the rights of taxpayers in the 30 states that specifically prohibit same-sex marriages.
Naturally, gay activists were upset, apparently angered that they could not just bend the Department of Justice to their will. Perhaps I should not be surprised by their ire. Their greatest allies have been out-of-control courts and runaway legislatures.
Yet I was very surprised at how disrespectful they seemed to the White House. It appears that these groups feel the administration owes them a special dimension of allegiance. Despite the president’s promise of greater gay inclusion in the political mainstream and his declaration that June should be considered gay pride month, gay activists like the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights lobbying group based in Washington and Lambda Legal, called on Obama to begin steps to end DOMA as he promised on the campaign trail. President Obama would be very unwise if he caved into the pressure tactics of gay activists at this early stage of his presidency. After all, many Christian leaders have been disturbed by the president’s stand on abortion, his lifting the bans on embryonic stem cell research, and his liberal economic policies.
Even though the president made very explicit and emphatic campaign promises that he opposes DOMA and would call for Congress to repeal it, the president is too smart to knuckle under to the cries of a vocal minority that cannot shift the balance of power in his favor in either 2010 or 2012. For these reasons and others, Justice spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler made the inevitable statement, “Until Congress passes legislation repealing the law, the administration will continue to defend the statute when it is challenged in the justice system.”
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.