Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and ten other Senate Republicans on Monday urged the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
In a friend-of-the-court brief (PDF), Hatch and his colleagues asserted that Congress’s enactment of DOMA was not motivated by “animus” towards gay and lesbian individuals. Rather, the law was intended to prevent costly litigation against federal government.
“Congress sought to mitigate this national confusion by clarifying the definition of marriage for purposes of federal law, while preserving the authority of states to make determinations with regard to their own state laws,” they wrote. “Congress sought to preserve the status quo, not disrupt it.”
In February, Judge Jeffery White of the District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that Section 3 of DOMA violated the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law. Section 3 of the law defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman, and prohibited legally married same sex couples from receiving federal benefits.
In his ruling, White noted that a House report on DOMA described it as reflecting the legislators’ “moral disapproval of homosexuality, and a moral conviction that heterosexuality better comports with traditional (especially Judeo- Christian) morality.” Members of Congress also described homosexuality as “immoral,” “depraved,” “unnatural,” “based on perversion,” and “an attack upon God’s principles.”
But Hatch and his colleagues said it was wrong for the judge to make a ruling based on the motivations of individual legislators.
“This approach is corrosive to the rule of law, disrespectful of the co-equal branches of government, and ultimately destructive of democratic debate in a free society,” they wrote.
The Obama administration has declined to defend the statute, but the U.S. government is still defending the law thanks to Republicans in Congress.
After Obama directed the Department of Justice to no longer the law, the House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG) voted along party lines to direct the House General Counsel to appointed an attorney to represent the government in the case. The five-member advisory group has the authority to instruct the non-partisan office of the House General Counsel to take legal action on behalf of the U.S. House of Representatives.
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