BOSTON — Alliance Defense Fund attorneys representing U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, the ranking Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee, filed two motions to intervene to defend the federal Defense of Marriage Act in federal court Tuesday. The motions argue that the act, which defines marriage under federal law as the legal union of a man and a woman, essentially has been left undefended in a legal challenge against it because “the DOJ’s current DOMA defense, which happens to fit the current Administration’s policy preferences, is really no defense at all.”
A federal district court declared the act unconstitutional in two cases in July. The rulings are on hold pending appeal, but the U.S. Department of Justice has been slow in determining whether it will appeal the court’s decisions and defend federal law.
“We should be strengthening and protecting marriage, not subjecting it to a hostile takeover through the courts,” said ADF Legal Counsel Dale Schowengerdt. “If the Obama administration won’t defend marriage, we are ready and willing to do so.”
According to the motion to intervene filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, “The DOJ’s faint-hearted advocacy is especially alarming here because people have the right to rely on the government to make a good defense of laws passed by their congressional representatives…. The DOJ’s practical abdication of its own proven legal arguments, plus its ambivalence on whether it will even appeal, warrants intervention to ensure that widely supported Congressional legislation like DOMA receives a fair and vigorous defense.”
The group Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders filed the lawsuit against the U.S. Office of Personnel Management on behalf of clients in Massachusetts who were denied federal government benefits reserved for couples recognized as married under federal law. Massachusetts also filed its own lawsuit to dismantle the federal DOMA, Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The same court on the same day ruled in favor of Massachusetts in that lawsuit, so ADF is also filing a motion to intervene on behalf of Smith in that case as well.
The federal DOMA passed in 1996 by an overwhelming majority of 342–67 in the House and 85–14 in the Senate and was then signed by President Bill Clinton. Forty-five states also have laws defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. All 30 states that have sought to affirm marriage as one man and one woman in their state constitutions have successfully done so.
- Pronunciation guide: Schowengerdt (Show-in-gurt)
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.