President Obama declared last week that the federal law that bans gay marriage is "discriminatory." He also said: "It interferes with states' rights and it's time we overturned it." The president made the comments while announcing that the US government would grant benefits to the same-sex partners of federal employees. The president's denunciation of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act was not surprising, considering he campaigned against it last year. But his description of it as "discriminatory," also happens to be the exact opposite of the argument made by his own justice department in a case challenging the anti-gay-marriage law.
And according to the Chron, the attorney for the gay couple that wants the Defense of Marriage Act struck down plans to use Obama's own words against the Justice Department, which has declared that the act "does not discriminate." "It appears to me that the president of the United States is making it clear that the attorneys for the United States do not represent the views of the administration," attorney Richard Gilbert told the Chron. Gilbert represents a Southern California gay couple that is battling the Justice Department in court over the federal anti-same-sex-marriage law. Gilbert's approach is novel and appears to be inspired - even though legal experts that the Chron talked to were skeptical as to whether the tactic will ultimately work.
Still, Obama's seemingly contradictory position is somewhat understandable. The Defense of Marriage Act is the law of the land, and the Justice Department is sworn to uphold the law. It's a conundrum that the Obama Justice Department has faced in defending other Bush-era laws and policies - the president speaks out against them, and then the department defends them. But if the department were to simply ignore the laws that the president disagrees with, then critics would accuse the department of being politicized and defying the will of Congress. As a result, the president is in something of a no-win situation -- unless and until he convinces Congress to overturn those laws.